podcast Podetize

Success From Scratch: The Inspiring Story of Egg and Flour’s Adam Pawlak

Success From Scratch: The Inspiring Story of Egg and Flour’s Adam Pawlak

If you’re a fan of Milwaukee food, you might’ve heard the name Adam Pawlak once or twice as of late, and not without good reason….

If you’re a fan of Milwaukee food, you might’ve heard the name Adam Pawlak once or twice as of late, and not without good reason. This Bay View-born bearded wonder has been all over the city after his first solo concept, Egg & Flour Pasta Bar, was a hit in North Avenue’s Crossroads Collective.

Today, we’re joined by Adam Pawlak himself, Alex Anderson, and the legendary David Caruso to talk about Adam’s journey, and what it takes to succeed when setting out to chase your passion. We also talk about the Bucks, because like — how are we supposed to not talk about the Bucks?

Tune into this week’s episode, and you’ll also hear how much Adam, Alex, and David truly love our beloved city of Milwaukee, and how much it means to them to be doing their thing and chasing their passion in the city they’ve always called home.

Listen to the podcast here

We’ve got a special episode that we’ve been trying to do for a little while. We’ve got Adam Pawlak. He’s the owner of Egg & Flour and a reality TV star on Hell’s Kitchen. Egg & Flour has four locations, including E&F Pizzeria, which is very good. He was voted Best Chef in Milwaukee in 2019 and 2020. Adam, thanks for dropping by.

Best New Restaurant in 2019 and 2020 as well, which is pretty awesome. Thank you for having me.

Anything else you want to add in your intro to hype yourself up?

That’s good. That was it.

We are also stuck with Alex Anderson who’s tagging along. He is the bow tie guy and a real estate phenom.

He was driving by when I got here. That’s why he’s here. He witnessed me walking in.

Against my will, he made his way into the studio. He’s an early investor in Egg & Flour. He helped make that happen on day one. We’ll get into that. He’s the second most eligible bachelor in Milwaukee.

Who’s first?

Erik Kennedy. That guy says so much depth and culture as a community builder. He could be volunteering at St. Vincent DePaul, dropping by Egg & Flour and at Carnevor and then maybe even patronizing the dancers of Silk Exotic all in eight hours. The versatility on Erik Kennedy is off the charts and then he’ll be at F45 the next morning in a weighted vest, no joke.

His network runs deep and the circle is wide. He cast that large net.

He will be the same as Erik Kennedy in every situation. That’s why I love him. He doesn’t try to be someone he’s not.

Adam, are you single or are you in a relationship?

I am single and not ready to mingle because I don’t have time to mingle unless it’s between the hours of 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM. From experience, it doesn’t work out too well.

Any ladies out there, if you strike out with Erik Kennedy, Alex Anderson is an option. If you’re into the 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM thing, here’s Adam Pawlak.

5:00 AM brunch somewhere or 24-hour diner somewhere.

You guys are both Milwaukee natives but Bucks won the title. What’s it been like for you to see that? Everyone had emotions around the city. What has transpired to me as a lifelong Bucks fan was cool to see.

One of the unique opportunities of being able to be at all of the playoff games and the finals.

Not everyone is a baller. It’s perfect timing.

A real legend. Not eligible bachelor.

I posted on Facebook asking for fan-submitted questions. David Caruso, one of the top event planners in the United States of America and I would say the top in the Milwaukee area, commented on my Facebook post, asking if we were taking a call. When someone of this magnitude asked to call them, you invite them into the studio in person. David Caruso, welcome to the show.

This is so much fun. I don’t mean to crash but I couldn’t resist.

I didn’t think you would have time to crash something like this. This isn’t that exciting.

David heard the top two most eligible bachelors in Milwaukee will going to be here.

2 of the top 3, including Erik Kennedy.

Richie, I love the show so that’s one reason I wanted to come. I’ve always wanted to drive the beverage cart for your next golf outing so I thought maybe this would score me some points. I could join you on the golf course.

I played better with vodka soda and Leinenkugel’s beer.

I’ll do it. That’s perfect. Chef, he’s a little rock and roll and I’m a little bit not. I love that about us.

We’ve done stuff together. He’s had me on his show multiple times.

Live with David Caruso. He does a phenomenal job with that.

This redhead here, we met fifteen plus years ago when he was a little baiter at the youth club at one of my weddings.

He’s still not married yet.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We were chatting with a lot stopping when people will be tuning in about Bucks winning the title. I wanted to go around. We’re all Milwaukeeans who are active in the community. The four of us are from the area. We can kick it off with you. You just rolled in. What was it like emotionally for you to see all this happen in the city come to life, especially after the pandemic?

I also consider it, especially after not having the DNC in our city. It was extra special in so many ways but ultimately, I loved the energy, enthusiasm, energy and the people collaborating to make it all happen. People come from all over the state and surrounding areas to be together. It was all focused on celebration, sportsmanship, teamwork and positivity. Seeing our city have that opportunity to shine and show our cultural diversity, beautiful city and historic parts of our community was awesome.

Alex, do you have anything to add?

To capitalize on what David was talking about regarding the energy that was in and around the Deer District in the arena, I had the pleasure of talking with a lot of the Phoenix Suns fans when we were there. First off, I thank them for coming. I said, “We’re glad you’re here. Thank you for coming and spending your money in Milwaukee. We’re very grateful.” Every single one of them had shared how much they’ve enjoyed Milwaukee and the fans and the genuineness that’s around our terrible city here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I was watching the series, the playoffs and the progression of everybody. I had friends that had to make a decision, are they going to go on a honeymoon or go and spend their money on game six tickets? They were at the game. It’s being able to have the community rally around an organization in a team. We got to give the Bucks organization a lot of credit in the ownership and the leadership for having a vision for that Deer District to create what was allowed to happen that was phenomenal.

People forget that. You can’t just get ready for 100,000 overnight. We know there’s a lot of planning but it’s pretty incredible.

It is unfathomable. It was so cool seeing those drone shots on ESPN and being like, “That’s national TV and that’s our city.” The bucks didn’t even sell out their playoff games in 2010. You couldn’t give away enough tickets to those. The fact that there were 65,000 people outside and the minimum price of a standing-room-only ticket was $1,000 to get in the building is insane. Credits to the ownership group. They came in and were not fucking around. They said, “We want to win a championship in five years.”

That was what they said when they came here. Everyone would roll their eyes like, “Who are these New Yorkers?” They could have just sat on their asses and watched the value of the team go up with the NBA but they’ve done amazing things for the community. Alex Lasry, who’s been on the show a lot of times, didn’t have to come here and do what he does with the whole ownership group and organization. The players are such a likable cast of characters too and a great story like Giannis from Greece and Middleton who had to play in the G League leading them to the championship. It was cool to see.

I already bought in. What made the playoffs run so fun is everybody bought it. The ownership group and the players bought in. Even what we’ve talked about from years ago, coming to send in on Milwaukee, living here, ingraining themselves, meeting with the right people like Erik Kennedy and seeing that all come to be. It’s crazy that the Deer District during the finals was the tenth-largest city in the State of Wisconsin.

One of the reasons why I love Alex and Adam so much too is that they talked about setting a plan. The ownership and the organization came to Milwaukee, bought the team and set a plan. This was a part of the plan. People like Adam and Alex do that in their way, passion, business and life and make it come to fruition by surrounding themselves with amazing, awesome people, including community members and friends. It’s admirable and neat to see. That was a huge example of it. We all have examples of it in our lives by people that we look up to like your guest and how we can all feel inspired and uplifted by that mentality and way of approaching what you love.

One last thing and you guys alluded to this too but in the City of Milwaukee, which has gotten ripped so much and rightfully so for being such a segregated city, you went down to the Deer District and walked around. It was the most diverse crowd ever, Black, White, Hispanic, young and old. Every walk of life down there comes together around the team. It was very cool to see the city come together like that. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of that in the future as well.

I’d like to see that happen more often. Maybe not for a basketball game but something different.

Let’s get to Egg & Flour. Alex, you were the day one investor. Adam, this is your idea.

I’ve known Alex for a long time. One of my best friends grew up with Alex. That’s how I met him a long time ago. When I got this crazy idea, it was pretty much thinking of who had the flashiest clothes and cars at the time to ask for investment because I knew that they could buy a cool car, a bow tie and a suit every day. He could probably give me a little bit of cash to open this little pasta spot that we have.

Adam called me. You know when a friend is asking you for something. Their demeanor changes and sounds a little nervous. They’re dancing around the issue. He asked me to come over to his house. I knew that I was going to get pitched but I didn’t know what though.

It wasn’t that bad. I said, “Come on over. I want to ask you something.”

It was dancing around Facebook Messenger and text messages. He called me. I’m sitting on his couch and he’s like, “I have this idea.” I was like, “Let’s hear it.” He’s like, “I want to open up my pasta shop.” He tells me the name, Egg & Flour Pasta Bar and shows me one of the original logos.

The one that he saw wasn’t even the actual logo. It was a generated one that I was doing online for free.

Clip art?

Worse than that. You enter it, it spins around and shoots a sign out. That’s how my ideas usually start.

He showed that to me and I was 100% in. I didn’t let him know right away. With the name, Egg & Flour, the two main ingredients are egg and flour. I’ve tasted Adam’s cooking before. I’ve been to a lot of his charity dinners and private dinners. I never had his pasta. It wasn’t until our first pop-up after I’d already given him a whole bunch of money that I tasted the pasta and I was like, “This is good.”

There’s so much support coming from Alex.

You invest in the person and that’s what it was.

I do have four other partners. Everyone has their part. They’re all pretty much handpicked. Alex was one of those handpicked people that we have. It’s worked out. We’re over two years and we still have all the original partners, which is pretty cool and we haven’t killed each other. I like them to stay out of it. I go to them for advice pretty frequently but for the most part, I let them live their lives and I come to them for advice and business stuff. It was awesome to have him say yes because he’s one piece of the puzzle. We had other people that were involved but I’m glad that he’s here.

Adam, can you talk about the difficulty and the long hours that you had to put in to get this thing from the logo you showed Alex when you were trying to get the investors on board to open up your restaurant? You spent a lot of years as a chef in other restaurants or working in restaurants. Talk about that journey a little bit.

It’s pretty crazy. It’s like when you’re the boss and the one that’s building your future and brand. You pretty much are thinking of all the things that you liked, what you’ve seen in the past and bringing it together, not doing what you didn’t like in the past when you’re doing stuff. Shout out to West Schaber and Jonathan Welbeck who’s done everything for me, logo and branding, concept, driving everything that we do, the social media and getting people on board with that. For me, I didn’t think it was going to be anything too crazy. It’s 130 square feet at the Crossroads Collective. It was the only booth that was open. They were at full capacity against this, except for the one that I am in.

I go, “Is there something wrong with this spot or something?” The place is jumping. We were talking in the first week and they were open. That one little booth that I’m in is vacant. That’s how it all started for me and West Schaber. I was sitting in the food hall like, “I don’t know what it’s going to be but it is going to be something.” We started building it and it’s non-stop. You always have ideas, whether it’s 11:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the morning. I wake up out of bed and jot something down or put it on my phone and go see it the next day.

Sometimes it was a good idea that stuck still and sometimes like, “What was I thinking at 3:00 in the morning?” A lot of hard work inside the space and outside of the space. Getting everything from your accountants, the LLC and the business side of it to even things that people might forget like, “I got to contact someone to get shirts or uniforms.” Little things that no one ever thinks about. Once it’s open, you’re like, “Everyone has got to have a uniform.” That all takes effort, time, planning and stuff like that. Digging in. It was more getting all these partners on board to say, “I can’t fuck this up.” For my sake but also for their sake because I had this big pitch and idea that I wanted to do something great.

This was my first concept and business outside of being a chef at a restaurant. I wanted to come out of the gate strong and do something that people would be memorable. I remember after the first week we were out, I told Alex, “This could be a household brand. If someone says, ‘Let’s go get pasta,’ they’re coming to us. If you say Egg & Flour, they know exactly what that is.” We’re close. We’re getting to that point. We have a lot of work to still do years later. I haven’t stopped this gas fully since we opened that first day, which is crazy. We’re always up to something

What’s cool, if I can interject about it, is it’s been full speed ahead. As a friend and an outsider in the community watching it, that’s what drew me to Egg & Flour. He has it all. He has the right people around him.

I don’t have a girlfriend or a wife, remember that. I don’t have it all, David.

I’m talking more business side. The idea of his personality, drive, look, the pasta, the quality of the food, the branding, the logo, the placement of his shops in the community, how he does outreach in the community and Hell’s Kitchen is the coolest thing. You can tell that it’s authentically what he loves. That’s why customers are also so drawn to it because you feel that as a part of the experience.

You brought up Hell’s Kitchen. How did that all happen? I’m sure there are thousands of people trying to get on every season. How did you make it on that show? What was that like?

This was my third time. What I do is I pick a day where I’m like, “I don’t have too much to do.” I get online and apply for all the shows that I want to do. It’s like the Top Chef, Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen and Guy’s Grocery Games even. When I’m there, there’s this long process of interviews online that you’re filling out all this stuff. I got through some of them and I’m like, “I’m going to go for Hell’s Kitchen. That’s something that I want to do.” I’ve had a contestant that was on two seasons, Chef T, Torrece. She hit me up and goes, “It is the time that they’re actively looking for people for the new season.” I had to get on there.

I filled and sent it out. She probably had a little bit of say in helping it. I don’t know. I can’t say that for certain but I got a call back two days after I sent it off because this is all done online. They’re talking to me, interviewing me on the phone and getting used to who I am and my personality, then a few Zoom meetings or Skype interviews where they want to see me. I’m sending pictures and videos. Showing them that I can cook is a huge thing as well. They want to know that. They asked for a ton of stuff and then they’re like, “We’ll get back to you,” which I’ve heard before. I’m like, “It seems like we got a good chance.”

I’ve done all this stuff, everything that they needed. 2.5 or 3 weeks went by and I forgot about it because I have other stuff going on. I’m at home with my friend, Chris and we’re sitting on my couch hanging out. I get a call from a California number. It can only be one person in my family or I was like, “This might be the call.” I stopped everything and mute the TV. I answer it. They say, “This is so-and-so from Hell’s Kitchen. How are you doing?” “I’m doing well.” She’s like, “I want to let that you have been selected for Season Nineteen.” At that moment, it was crazy.

It was 8:30 at night. I’m screaming in my apartment. My buddy is the one that’s watched every season with me and he’s freaking out. She’s like, “We’ll contact you later.” It was a 40-second call.” I was like, “That sounds good.” They left it at that. It kept going and stuff. It’s an incredible feeling because, for me, I always told my buddy, “I’d never get picked for anything ever.”

How many shows and stuff did you apply for before this break?

I would say about 4 or 5 times. That’s all the different shows and stuff. At one point, I was like, “I don’t care. It’s TV cooking. It’s not super important for what I like to do and what I’m doing. I thought it would be something fun. I’d like to put my skills to the test and have the whole world see that.” It was Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef. Those are the two. I was like, “I can’t say no. I get to meet Gordon Ramsay. It’s heavy competition cooking.” I don’t mind doing that at all but I fell a little short.

That was a secret that Adam kept from us when he was pitching us this idea. We had no idea that Hell’s Kitchen was right around the corner. He’s kept that in his back pocket.

When did you get selected? Give us a timeline.

It’s crazy. We were gearing up for Egg & Flour.

It’s a nice surprise to the investors, I’m sure.

They didn’t even know that it was in a process.

It was like, “I’m going to be gone for a while but we’re going to get a ton of brand awareness after this.”

Essentially what happened is we were ready to go with Egg & Flour and everything. We had paint on the walls and everything in. We were all excited and then I got the call. I have to tell them, my landlord and all my employees because we’re probably ten days out. I was like, “The max that I could be there is 1.5 months or 1 month. I have to go. I can’t say no to this. We’re pushing it back.” I told them I cannot open it. That’s a small group of people. It’s not like I’m online being like, “People, I’m leaving for a month. I’ll open Egg & Flour when I get back.” I went out to Las Vegas. A quick month went by. I came back and turned my phone on. It almost started smoking. There were many messages and random stuff because I went from posting twice a day to nothing for a month.

It was super crazy to come back, I wouldn’t say as a different person but you’re changed forever with more confidence and motivation. I knew I was coming home to a brand-new restaurant. That helped me a lot in the show. I was unemployed. I was just working on Egg & Flour. I have the advantage there but I was like, “Even if I got off, I’m going home to open a new restaurant. It’s going to be super awesome.” My staff knew what was going on. I came back and we ended up opening that first space five days after I got off the plane.

Were you devastated when you got kicked off at the moment but then you’re like, “I get to go start this new adventure anyway?”

I was in shock honestly. If you watch the show, there’s a lot of drama and producer-driven things. I was super chill and laid back on the show, which was probably the worst thing you can do for reality TV. I was in my character and had my thing going on but when I thought I got called up, I thought he was going to do the classic like, “Get back in line.” That never came. I took my jacket and shook his hand. I have so much respect for him. He has a lot of respect for me. It wasn’t dirty like, “Get out of my kitchen.” It was more of like, “Your time is done here. We know.”

How long was it from the time you got back from the show to the time the show went on air and people knew you were going home?

It’s so long. I got back May 19, 2021 and it didn’t air until January 2022.

You couldn’t talk about it at all, couldn’t you?


What was that like for you, Alex? Did you even know he was on the show as an investor?

At that point, we did.

You didn’t know if he won or not.

He couldn’t tell us. We asked. We had strategies in place, whether or not it was going to win, whether he was going to take that opportunity in Lake Tahoe or whether he was going to come back and open up Egg & Flour. We had different strategies depending on the outcomes but he legit couldn’t say and he wouldn’t.

The only three people that know were my mom, dad and brother because if I would have gotten farther, they would have got flown out. They know that from watching the show. They wanted me to win so they could go to Vegas. Those were the three that were like, “He didn’t win.” My dad always said, “I know you didn’t win.” I was like, “I get it.” That was the only time that he knew but everyone else I wanted them to see it because I knew how it went down. It’s playing in my head every day but I was excited for people to see it and not spoil it because what’s the point? It’s more exciting to see the reactions in a lifetime than me being like, “Guess what?” That only lasts ten seconds of excitement.

Whenever I watch a reality TV show, I’m wondering how much of this is real and how much of this is staged? I’m guessing for a guy like Alex across from us who’s probably applied to be on The Bachelor a minimum of 10 to 15 times. If his application ever makes it through, what should he be aware of? What’s it like to be on a reality TV show?

The hardest thing is you can’t be yourself. Everyone is like, “Be yourself. Be who you are. Be true to who you are.” I was the product of that and it didn’t go too well. Maybe exaggerate yourself a little bit more when you’re in the moment. For Hell’s Kitchen specifically, I tell people, “No staging and scripts. No like, ‘Do this and then let’s start over.’” It’s all real-time and all good but a lot of editing. We’re talking about a month worth of footage trapped into 16 to 40-minute episodes.

The cameras are on all the time.

It’s everywhere.

What was that like? Did you like that? You probably get so used to it after a few days.

The first day after that, you’re like, “I can’t get away.” They have them in the general bathroom area, even by the sinks and stuff. They pretty much don’t want to miss anything. That’s the thing with reality TV. When you get up in the morning, make sure that you have the mic on because there’d be times where I’d get up super early, someone else’s up and they don’t want to miss what that conversation could be, whether it’s in the bathroom, in the kitchen or outside on the patio. They want to catch everything. I got used to it quickly and got focused. I would say the hardest part is dealing with the other cast when you’re on any reality show. You don’t know who these people are. You have to get to know them quickly in a short amount of time. Most of the time they’re not who they act like they are.

We have a lot of young professionals and some entrepreneurs reading this and you guys have all been successful in your rights. Adam with this. Alex with a real estate career. David is one of the top event planners in the United States. What piece of advice would you give to people who are maybe starting a business or looking to start a business?

From my vantage point, I learned super quickly that it had to drive your entire spirit. It had to be something that encapsulated what you loved and what you knew you could be passionate about. No matter what the trials and tribulations would be in front of you, you would still want to push through because you felt so much passion behind what you were embarking on. That is super important.

The other thing is that Adam mentioned it. I was a creative guy who wanted to create experiences for people but I wasn’t a business person at first. Make sure that you learn things that you might be weak at or not familiar with. For me, it was the business side, the money side and all of that kind of stuff. Also, surround yourself with people who can help you with your weakness or what you might not be so good at. When you can put those simple, basic foundational elements together, you can do well.

I was not going to go before you because I was going to say the same thing. The number one thing, if you’re someone there and you’re like, “There’s so much stuff to do to open a business,” and you feel overwhelmed, you have to give jobs to other people. You can’t do it all. I’m a chef. I don’t do my accounting. I have an accountant. I don’t do artwork, concepts and all that stuff. I give it to someone that does that stuff. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a little bit or have some say in what you want or what you think is right but you have to do what your strong points are and let the professionals and other people that are comfortable doing that do those jobs for you or you’re going to fall behind and then you’re going to end up hating it.

This business changed when we hired an operations person. I’m terrible at operations and managing people a few years ago. You have to do some of everything when you’re starting or more of everything. The faster you can “fire” yourself from those positions and get people who are good at them and enjoy doing them, the better off you’re going to be. It’s always worth it.

You have to be willing to take losses and recognize that those losses are going to be temporary. Bobby Portis took a pay cut to come to the Bucks because he believed in the team and the organization and then he’s got a written. If you had an opportunity to interview Bobby, it wouldn’t matter if he was going to get paid $20 million if he didn’t get a ring. When I left the bank that I was at, I took a 60% pay cut and had my lights shut off on me twice. I couldn’t afford food. I knew which creditor I had to pick up the phone for and which one wasn’t or which one I could ignore but I also had a vision. I knew that these losses were only going to be temporary and the end goal was going to supersede everything.

The pace is important and not to put too much pressure on yourself. You got to focus on yourself and what you’re doing. Don’t look at other people, what it perceives they’re doing, how they’re doing it, how quickly they’re getting there and how much money they have. You got to stay in your lane and focus on yourself and what your ultimate vision is. That’s where a lot of people get lost. It’s very easy to do it.

Everybody at this table, including you, Richie, is good at doing this. Find a differentiator. What makes you different from other people doing similar things? These two have done an impeccable job of that. It can be as simple as that but that differentiator is going to set you so far apart from other people. It is going to make a difference in how you present your experience to them.

You got to stand out somehow. Either if it’s in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, in the country or in the world, be different. There’s nothing wrong with getting inspiration and ideas but trying to do it on your own and come up with ideas. We all know that the idea of makers is the successful ones.

I want to end on this. This is a Milwaukee-based show. Maybe each of you could go around and talk about why each of you has chosen to stay and have a business in Milwaukee when other opportunities probably could be ample.

I love the intimacy of the city and the connectedness. Smallwaukee is a phrase that has been coined by a lot of us.

I don’t like that.

What do you want it, Largewaukee? It doesn’t sound the same.

Just Milwaukee. We are what we are.

Once you get into the niche and the circle of Milwaukee, then you understand it’s small. I had a business professor in the school. She said, typically, six degrees of separation, where there were three degrees or whatever it is. “Milwaukee is small, 1 or 2.”

It’s six.

Six degrees of separation but in Milwaukee, it’s way less than.

The only reason I don’t like this is that I would think that a lot of people say that they’re always doing the same thing but there’s so much in Milwaukee that people have no idea what’s even going on. That shouldn’t be the term. For me, there are so many things that I’ve never done or experienced but I feel like I have because I’m in my world but I know that there’s a lot of stuff out there.

You can say it with any big city. You’re going to have your small niche serves but here in Milwaukee, we have the lake, plenty of good walking and hiking trails, our version of skiing in the wintertime and the NBA champions. I know what you’re getting at. You have all the big city amenities without a lot of the big city bullshit. It’s easy to get in front of who you need to go back to your separation point. It does seem like the community supports the community when you’re starting. That’s been my experience.

As long as you give it back to them.

I grew up in Wauwatosa. I went to college at Marquette. I have been here my whole life except for a short four-year stint when I started my adult career in Chicago. People ask me this question all the time because they see these big multimillion-dollar parties happening in bigger cities. They say, “Why don’t you want to go do those kinds of parties?”

I can do and can travel to do them but I stay here because there’s something to be said for the feeling of building your business. Not only in the place you grew up but in the same place for the length of your business. It feels good to do it in this place because I’ve built a network, community and a reputation. I love that I can do something for my community using my skills that somehow in whatever way impacts the quality of life and quality of experiences in a city that I love and for people that I do cherish in our community. I’m addicted to our city. I love to be here and do my business here.

I got a tattoo on my calf of the skyline of Milwaukee with the Milwaukee flag colors.

We said baller at the beginning of the episode. I didn’t even know you were that cool.

Let’s throw out all the cool things. I have a cow with the State of Wisconsin. It’s hidden in there. It’s faded but no skyline of Milwaukee. Not yet. I grew up in Bay View, a smaller area in Milwaukee and have always been here. I’ve traveled to do a little bit of cooking. For me, it’s a little bit easier because it’s similar. It’s like he can do events and sell houses anywhere in the world. I can cook food anywhere in the world.

For my job, it’s a little bit different. I was like, “Should I think about going to a different state or somewhere else?” I’m thinking about crazy ideas like going to Hawaii and cooking there for a few years. I said, “I’m going to give Milwaukee 3 or 4 more years. I want to see it develop and where the food world goes.” It was in tune with what was going on with that and getting bigger. I gave it that 3 or 4 years. I then have four spots. I can’t just get up and go. I did it to myself so I’m permanent.

I was like, “4? I want 100. I want to take this”

The guy that doesn’t have to cook or do anything wants the 100.

He talks about surrounding yourself with people that can push you to be better. What we have is duplicatable all across the United States and the world.

The cool thing too and I know that they have this in their relationship, I have it with Alex in a certain way is it is also good and okay to also know that you can lean on somebody. We aren’t always at the top of the game. It’s always fun and exciting. Know that you can lean on the people around you.

You have to. For me, a lot of times, people are like, “You’re so successful. You have all the stuff.” I’m like, “If you only knew half of it.” If I posted all the bad things on Facebook that happened to me daily, it would be horrible. When any of my managers call, it’s code red. In some of your world, maybe your wife’s calling and you got to answer. I answer and he goes, “We got a problem.” That happens 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 to 8 times a day.

Alex turns to me because we overheard him on the phone. He was like, “I hate when that happens.” I was like, “We need to talk.” We need to talk is almost worse because you want to know if there’s a problem. You don’t want to be guessing. I give your manager some credit for it.

At least he anchored it as a terrible situation. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was.

I’ve told him, “Even when you call me, I know you’re drunk because you never call me ever. If things are good, I’d never hear from you. When I see your name come up on my phone, I assume something is wrong.” I want people to know that even the most successful people in the world, in the city or wherever have horrible days. This is not a secret. They have bad months, bad weeks and losses. They deal with a lot of stuff too. It’s not all what people perceive as it is. That will help people be humbled and say, “It’s okay that I don’t make this much money, didn’t get on this, do this or not awarded for that.” It happens. I tell people to keep going. I try to never stop.

Adam, one more thing. I was watching an interview. You were on some news channel and someone said your peer group didn’t think you’d amount to much when you were growing up. People are coming up and are like, “You’re so successful.” Even if you’re like, “I got people calling me with problems.” It’s a good story. That’s an important message because a lot of kids go through that. I went through that too in my way. Can you talk a little bit about that journey and how things are different?

I have an older brother, Alex. He cooks and went to culinary school and all that.

Not me, though I was accepted at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

I never had something that I love. My parents were never like, “He’s going to be a chef when he grows up. He loves food and our whole family loves food.” I was the one that was maybe undecided or like to do my thing and didn’t like to be out there and tell everyone what I like to do but I’ve cooked for so long. When I started getting into it, studying and learning, I was like, “I know that I want to do this.” I was never a superstar football player or all these big things that people have done in their younger years.

My career starts unfolding and my personality starts coming out. Social media has helped so much with getting the word out about what I’m doing. I was talking to someone about this. I always look at the old food pictures that I used to post. 90% of me wants to delete that off of there forever but there’s 10% of me that’s like, “Keep that on there. That’s a good memory of where you’ve come from,” and how much I’ve built and grown over the years. It’s crazy that I’m where I’m at. I could never write this.

What would you attribute it to, just hard work and continuing to grow?

It sounds cheesy but my mom, my dad and my family. We didn’t have anything crazy. We grew up in Bay View chilling. That life isn’t horrible. They’re great. I had things that I wanted but also, I didn’t have things that I wanted. I didn’t always want to live that life my whole life. I didn’t want to be stuck in Bay View and do that forever. I want to try to get new opportunities, show them and be like, “Just because you guys didn’t go crazy and have these insane careers or anything doesn’t mean that I can’t. This is my ode to you that I can do whatever. This is for you, guys.” I always tell people it’s mostly for my mom.

You’re back in Bay View and own the spot.

We have a spot and my mom doesn’t have to drive to the East Side. She can go right to Bay View. She still lives in the original house. She motivates me and my partners too. One of my partners, Tony, my cousin, is my biggest inspiration forever. He’s super successful and can do whatever he wants. It’s only because he’s worked his ass off. It was never given to him.

Thank you so much for coming on, guys.

It’s been an honor.

Thanks for letting me crash.

We were starstruck.

When someone of your magnitude comments on someone’s Facebook post, I lit up. I had to invite you down. For you to come down here and bless us with your presence is amazing.

It’s good to see you, David.

I love you, guys.

This show is brought to you by OnMilwaukee and GoGedder Marketing Media, If you’ve got any value out from this episode, please share it with your friends. Write a review and subscribe if you have not already. That helps us get the word out. Thanks so much for reading.

Important Links

About Adam Pawlak

Adam Pawlak is the Chef & owner of Egg and Flour Pasta Bar

About Alex Anderson

Real Estate Advisor at Powers Realty Group

Alex Anderson

About David Caruso

As an internationally celebrated event planner and designer, David Caruso is known for the creativity, elegance and attention to detail which he brings to every event he designs. During the past 19 years, he has transformed large arenas into chic celebration spaces, ballrooms into fantasy lands and backyards of private estates into magical expressions of his clients’ styles and personalities. Recently, David has produced events in Wisconsin, Chicago, Miami, San Antonio, Seattle, Scottsdale, San Diego, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and the West Indies.

David is also a professional speaker hired to present on the topics of weddings, style, business, branding, design and more. He has conducted speaking appearances all over the country and in exotic locales such as Riviera Maya, Mexico and Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.

A sought-after guest nationally, David has appeared on TV news and talk shows in Chicago, Phoenix, Denver and Washington, D.C. In the Midwest, he regularly presents the popular “Entertaining in Style with David Caruso” segment on Milwaukee’s NBC show, “The Morning Blend.” In addition, he contributes to a variety of radio outlets and his work has been featured in key national publications that include BRIDES Magazine and Catering Magazine.

In 2018, David launched two Designer Collections in partnership with BBJ Linen. The collections, Palm Beach Chic and Vita Toscano, are available for rent nationwide on, and include tablecloths and napkins in fabrics hand-selected and conceived by David. In addition, the website will sell goods capable of satisfying the most discriminating shopper. These include stunning yet affordable pieces from creative partners around the globe, from silkscreened handbags to small-batch, unique hostess gifts, each handpicked by David.

David has served two terms as the President of the Southern Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE). He has received multiple top national awards from NACE for: Best Table Production of the Year, Best Wedding of the Year – Budget Greater than $100,000, and the ultimate industry accolade, Event Planner of the Year.

Special Events Magazine included David on its annual 30 Under 40 feature – a list of 30 young event professionals from around the globe gifted with both the talent and drive to take the industry to the next level.

The Business Journal named David among the top leaders in Milwaukee for its 40 Under 40 Awards, featuring 40 individuals under the age of 40 who are making a difference in their professions and communities. In the same year, he was listed by M Magazine as one of 11 Milwaukeeans who make a chic statement through their personal style. Additionally, David is one of the producers of Milwaukee’s Magnificent Bride Wedding Show, which is Wisconsin’s premier wedding industry event of the year.