Phil Rosenthal Interview: ‘Somebody Feed Phil’
“You’re talking to the luckiest guy that you’re ever gonna talk to,” exclaims Phil Rosenthal, the creator, executive producer and star of “Somebody Feed Phil.” The Netflix series, now in its third season, features Rosenthal traveling to some of the world’s greatest cities and sampling their cuisine and culture. He won two Best Comedy Series Emmys for creating and producing “Everybody Loves Raymond” and calls this series, “a dream come true.” Watch our exclusive video chat above.
Despite his success in television, Rosenthal says that it took about 10 years for “Somebody Feed Phil” to get made. “They don’t hand dreams out like this to just anybody,” he says. “It took some doing. I really had to prove myself.” After “Everybody Loves Raymond” went off the air, Rosenthal had no interest in the comedy projects that were being pitched to him. “I had had this dream of doing a travel show for years, and so I thought ‘Let’s pursue that a little bit and see what happens.'” After an earlier incarnation of the show aired for a season on PBS, Rosenthal brought the show to Netflix, and used a bit of humor to sell his idea. “I sold the show by saying ‘I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything.'”
The series is more than just a series of visits to restaurants and markets. Rosenthal sees the show as a marriage of locations, food, and humor. “I call food the great connector,” he explains. “And for me, if food is the great connector, laughter is the cement.” Rosenthal also sees the importance in highlighting restaurants that anyone can afford to visit rather than only focusing on fancy high-end dining. “It’s not how anyone really eats,” he explains. “I’ve met very few people who want to have the three-star Michelin meal every night, even on vacation. There are those people, but you don’t want to talk to them.”
One of Rosenthal’s favorite episodes of the season involved him visiting South Korea, where he met a young woman who had fled the more oppressive regime of North Korea. The encounter, which he says still causes him to get choked up, encapsulates what he wants viewers to take from the show. “I had no idea how moving the food part of it would be,” he recalls. “It’s a grand slam to have not just her story, but to tie it so beautifully with what your whole show is about.” He also hopes that viewers see the show and then decide to travel themselves, not just for the food, but for the experience. “The other life out there that you had no idea existed, that is so beautiful, it sends you home with a new perspective,” he declares. “That’s the beauty of travel.”