By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 29, 2021 at 11:36 AM

A Milwaukee chef is finding out if he can stand the heat in the world's most famously intense kitchen. Adam Pawlak – owner of Egg & Flour pasta bar has taken on 17 other cooks (and infamously irritable celeb chef Gordon Ramsay) on the latest season of FOX's "Hell's Kitchen."

Airing Thursday nights at 7 p.m., the long-time reality competition pits chefs from across the country (and the globe, in this season's case) for a chance to win the head position at Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen restaurant in Lake Tahoe, complete with a salary of $250,000. Along the way, dishes and egos are broken, some contestants burn their food, and Ramsay famously burns contestants, breaking their hearts one by one. Ultmately, one chef reigns supreme... and hopefully, this season, that chef ends up being Pawlak. 

So will Pawlak serve up four-star food – or at the very least four-star entertainment? Watch dining editor Lori Fredrich and me recap of the latest episode – complete with wine, natch – and be sure to join us every Thursday night at 8:10 p.m. to talk about the show and discuss if our Milwaukee chef is having a heavenly time during his stint in "Hell's Kitchen."


How'd Adam do?

Four episodes and at least a dozen chucked steaks in, one thing is clear: Adam is one of the only people coming off like a professional on this show, at least certainly on the dwindling-away blue team. While everyone on his team either yells at one another or murders a steak or fish filet enough that Chef Ramsay catapults it into the sun, episode in and episode out, Adam just goes about his business not making mistakes and not making enemies. He may not make great television – which is why he's mostly faded to the background since episode one – but he makes a good candidate to win the show.

Admittedly Adam does seem a little feisty in the episode's first challenge, probably because he's tired of losing (one of the few things the blue team's excelled at thus far). The challenge features the two teams racing to complete brunch service – featuring classics like avocado toast, eggs benedict, steak and eggs, and waffles – for a plethora of Vegas weddings. Because nothing says "romantic special day" like a wedding surrounded by strangers doing the exact same thing, soundtracked by a furious British man. Anyways, between Declan half-arsing the mimosas and Josh's incapactity to cook steaks properly, Adam throws out some zings in his confessional interview, noting most pointedly that Josh cooked his meat every possible way ... except the one Ramsay asked for. 

After yet another blue team loss, Adam needs a cigarette; but he can't even do that in peace as yappy Marc and the mountain-like ego of Declan spar nearby, the former eventually trying to lick his wounds from the interaction by calling out Adam for smoking too much. Even when they're not in the kitchen, Marc's got overly intense criticisms for everybody. Pst, Marc: He's being driven to smoke because of people like you.

... well, and people like Josh, who prolongs their punishment – making 600 cupcakes – (a true torture for Adam who notes that he does not like baking) by overstepping his bounds and mis-decorating someone else's cupcakes. And that someone else is Declan, who's already in a swell mood thanks to Marc's aggro-pouting and leadership LARPing. Much like last time, between the losing, the yelling, the baking and now the re-baking, Adam does not seem to be enjoying his time on this show. 

Maybe things will improve with a team shakeup? Seeing the growingly unequal teams, Ramsay shifts Amber – the Chicago chef Adam already knew and respected from the premiere – over to the blue team. So maybe someone who actually gets along with somebody else in the kitchen can bring some cohesion to the team. The result: decidedly mixed, as service goes poorly for both teams, both sent out of the kitchen for repeatedly botching food – thankfully none in Adam's case. 

So let's go through who remains on the blue team. Declan is a strong chef; but his even stronger personality threatens to overshadow that. Marc can't work as a team player; instead, he's a wannabe leader who doesn't know how to lead. Josh can't decorate cakes right, much less cook a steak. Peter was put up for elimination beccause he regularly screwed up his fish. Cody's ego makes more of an impact than his cooking chops. Amber just showed up, so we'll leave her out for now because we don't entirely know how she'll play with others (and she seemed testy on the red team prior to the swap).

So that leaves Adam as the only chef I'd trust on the blue team. He cooks well, listens well, stays out of the drama and quietly knows how to manage his teammates. He even managed to defuse Marc after he got yelled at by Ramsay, quietly telling him to keep his cool and bring the temperature down. AND MARC LISTENED!

Call the rest of the season off. Anybody who pulls that miracle off deserves to win the show right now, I'd say. 

Quick bites

  • What's up with people essentially self-eliminating themselves on this show? First there was Eliott telling Chef Ramsay that he was a worse chef than his competition, basically begging Gordon to fire him (and which Gordon obliged). And now Thursday night you had Brittani confessing that she just doesn't know how to cook fish. Telling Ramsay that there's an entire world of food you can't cook seems like a good way to not get a job with him! I get saying, "I had a rough day with fish" ... but "I'm not good at cooking fish"? More like I'm bad at staying in this job interview. 
  • Speaking of self-eliminations, Drew's body apparently had enough of this show. After last week's challenges, Drew began suffering from full-body cramps. Maybe it was an allergic reacction to having to wear a belt? No matter the case, the show medic figured it was serious enough to require a hospital visit – and eventually it became serious enough that he had to miss both challenges, disqualifying himself from the rest of the show. Judging by his performance to this point, he probably wasn't going to go far, but losing becaues of a rebellion from one's own body is a sad fate for anyone. He didn't even get a dramatic photo burning!
  • An alarming development in this episode: Cody the egomaniac ... was the voice of reason? I agreed WAAAY too much with Cody tonight for my taste: first when he tried to keep the peace between Declan and Marc and telling them not to yell in front of customers in the kitchen, then near the end of the episode when he said they should put both Declan and Marc up for elimination because they clearly can't work together and their friction is bringing their whole team down. Unfortunately not enough people agreed with Cody – a sentence that baffles my brain to say – and Peter, rather than Declan, was put up for elimination alongside Marc. 2021, will your horrors ever cease?!
  • Points to the "Game of Thrones" couple getting married during the wedding brunch. If you're gonna get married on television while Chef Ramsay heckles his employees and plays dodgeball with undercooked steaks, you might as well go full ridiculousness. 
  • Pro tip: Don't smugly say you're gonna do great on a challenge on a reality TV show. It's like a horror movie character saying, "I think the coast is clear." You're doomed. Declan talks about how easy making mimosas is. DOOMED. Jordan says she feels comfortable working the passs. DOOMED. Josh says he knows he can make steak. DOOMED. A lot of people tempting fate on this show ... 
  • What's the ladies' problem with Nikki? Sure, she's fairly young and she occasionally struggles, but no more than anyone else on the show. And yet the women seem very eager to send her to Ramsay for elimination, solely because she's comparatively inexperienced outside of the show – not because of her work, but merely her resume. Sounds like they should vote off the casting director then, not Nikki.
  • If Declan's attitude and fighting with Marc doesn't get him axed, his casual sexism toward the women when he heard one of them was coming over to his team would be a fine reason too. Leering at some of the women chefs puts an even nastier taste in my mouth than his shoddily mixed mimosas. 
  • Today's celeb sightings were guitarist DJ Ashba and Donna D'Errico of "Baywatch." The fact that they disappeared from the show in favor of Ramsay's sous chef's significant others tells you all you need to know about their clout. 
  • I'm just so glad that the producers figured that Declan's references to Marc being a chihuahua and he being a bear required sound effects. I would never have grasped what a dog sounds like and what a bear sounds like without them. 
Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.