From baked goods to bugs, Phil Rosenthal talks new season of Somebody Feed Phil
Speaking with Phil Rosenthal, even just over the phone, is like receiving a warm hug. When chatting with EW he opens the conversation with a sweet sentiment: "I love Entertainment Weekly and I'm sure I would love you if I met you." On the always funny and often delicious escapades for his Netflix travel show Somebody Feed Phil he exudes an infectious cheerfulness with everyone he meets. And boy does he meet a lot of people. On his show he travels around the world tasting the best local eats and listening to the most fascinating stories that locals lovingly tell.
Just like his uber catchy theme song says: He will laugh with you, and he'll cry for you, there's just one thing he asks in return, won't somebody feed Phil? Because human connection is what's most important to Rosenthal, what better way to connect than over a warm plate of something scrumptious?
Now the writer and producer, who's responsible for creating beloved sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, is returning to our TVs with season 5 of Somebody Feel Phil (see an exclusive clip below), all episodes hit Netflix May 25. You'll see him fish for and feast on lobster in Maine, try tapas and jamón in Madrid and eat one too many insects in Oaxaca. Below, Rosenthal talks with EW all about his travels, as well as his new podcast Naked Lunch and his upcoming book Somebody Feed Phil The Book.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you want to start this type of travel and food show? What sparked your interest?
PHIL ROSENTHAL: When I was a kid, we never went anywhere. It wasn't until I was, I think 9 years old we went to a bar mitzvah in Atlanta, which sounded like such a beautiful far-away place. And it was my first time on a plane from New York. When we got to Atlanta, my cousins took me down the street to this new place I'd never heard of called 7-Eleven. They had a machine that looked like it was from science fiction that turned sodas into cold slushie drinks called Slurpees. And this was the most delicious, fantastic thing I'd ever had in my whole 9-year-old life. We got them every day and that awakened a sense of traveling in me. It was just that simple, stepping out of your neighborhood to try something else.
What's your favorite place that you've traveled to?
I'm going to say Italy. I was 23 when I got my first trip to Europe on a courier flight for free because I couldn't afford to go otherwise. I went to Paris and then took an overnight train to Florence. And on that train ride in my third class cabin, I was sharing it with this young couple from Florence. They barely spoke English. We stayed up all night drinking and laughing, and they told me what I shouldn't miss in Florence. They gave me the address to the family bakery, which I went to the very next day and fell in love with everything about Italy. Especially these kids, who I remained friends with my entire life! And that was 1983. The best part of traveling is meeting people and making friends, that's everything.
This season you travel to Oaxaca, Maine, Helsinki, Portland, and Madrid. Viewers are in for a treat with the Oaxaca episode; you ate lots and lots of bugs.
Oaxaca is one of my absolute favorite places that I've been. It's the most colorful, beautiful, spectacular place with amazing food. But yes I was a little scared. Now though, the more I do the show, I can't help but get a tiny bit more adventurous because I've had more experience. Now I'm not seeking out bugs to eat, this is not my idea of a great time. I never want to insult or act like I'm not appreciative of somebody's cuisine. This is their cuisine, they grew up with this and they love it. It may be hard to get my mind around it that I'm about to eat a worm, but it's in with the salad and it's not going to kill me.
You went to a Russian restaurant in Portland called Kachka, and met the chef Bonnie Morales. She told a fascinating story about the origins of the restaurants name coming from the story of her grandmother leaving to the Soviet Union to escape the Holocaust.
Isn't that incredible? This is what you get. You start talking about the food and of course it goes into family and tradition and stories. And I got that wonderful story from her. It's amazing. The other thing, I know it's not fashionable right now to like anything Russian. But the Russian people aren't attacking Ukraine, this is their government. What I found is in my travels that most people in the world are so much better than their governments. These nice Russian people don't condone this war or anything about it.
There's probably lots of great clips from places you've visited that have to be edited out of an episode for time. Is there one moment that stuck out in your mind that you love and were disappointed didn't make it into an episode?
All the time. In Portland I went with a great writer, Bill Oakley from The Simpsons, he took me to a wonderful Vietnamese coffee and pastry shop. We had a wonderful time, we just didn't have time for it in the show. But these are now bonus scenes that I put on philrosenthalworld.com. Let's say you wanted to go to Portland on a vacation. You wouldn't have to sit there and write down everything you see in the show. It's all listed there for you with links to every place, their websites and their phone numbers. So you can make reservations right there.
Congratulations on being renewed for season 6. You can't say where you're going just yet, but are there any destinations that you're really wanting to go to for a future episode?
I haven't been to India yet. I'm dying to go there. I haven't been to Australia or New Zealand on the show yet. It's a big, big world. Somebody's gotta eat it.
Lots of the food that you eat looks incredibly delicious but was there ever a food that you ate on the show that you absolutely hated, but you had to act for whatever reason like you loved it?
You know, I'm a terrible liar. I'm blessed or cursed with this face. I can't even play poker. I'm always polite when I don't like something, unless it's so awful. I remember in the old show I did, I'll Have What Phil's Having, I went to Hong Kong and I ate a thousand-year-old egg. It's not really a thousand-years-old, it just tastes that way. I took way too big of a bite and I thought I was going to die it was so bad. The first thing you taste is very, very, very rotten egg. And then you taste ammonia.
The theme song for your show is incredibly catchy. How did that song come to be?
I'm very, very lucky to know the band, Lake Street Dive, we've been friends for a long time. I said I have this show and I would love a theme song from you. They said yes, what do you want to do? So, I wrote down some lyrics and then they made them better. And then they added that tune and I think it's the best song ever written.
You have a new podcast called Naked Lunch. What can listeners expect from it?
So my friend, David Wild, is a journalist with Rolling Stone. Him and I have been having lunches for like 25 years. And we always bring our friends from the world of music, show business and comedy. Naked Lunch was a William Burroughs book and we just thought, we're having these conversations that are unguarded, just friends talking. And because we're having lunch, let's call it Naked Lunch.
And Somebody Feed Phil The Book is available for pre-order now and will be released on October 18.
Yes, it's a companion book to the show with behind the scenes stories and photos. It's also the world's best cookbook because we have 60 of the most requested recipes from the first four seasons of the show and from the greatest chefs in the world. Everything from four-star dining down to street food.
What can fans expect from the new season of Somebody Feed Phil?
I just want to turn you on to the stuff I like and I want you to travel. Because I think the world would be better if we all could experience a little bit of other people's experiences.
Somebody Feel Phil is streaming now on Netflix.
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