The joy of eating

In an age when the food documentary category on Netflix seems to offer endless options, having your own food and travel show is as novel as visiting the Eiffel Tower. So when "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal came up with his own contribution to the genre, he used his signature brand of self-deprecation to set "Feed Phil" apart .

"I said, 'I'm like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything,'" Rosenthal tells Bustle. "I'm not going to Borneo to get a tattoo from a tribesman who got drunk and hammered a nail into my chest - no thanks! I need a hotel, I need a bed with pillows." Yet. , "Feed Phil," which premiered on Netflix in 2018, has always been more than just a humorous fish-out-of-water fantasy. "I thought if I was like this, maybe I could talk to other people who were like that, or were more afraid than me of going somewhere and trying new things. It turns out that's exactly what people want."

Over five seasons, Somebody Feed Phil has proven that it's as much about fun as it is about food and travel. Yes, Oaxaca's mole looks appetizing, but it's Rosenthal's euphoric reactions—when his eyes widen to an almost cartoonish circumference or when he shakes his entire body with delight at a bite. body - imbues the show with impeccable sincerity.

The same goes for his interactions with everyone in the frame, from guests, to his wife and children, to passerby's children, to stray dogs. Even sad moments can inspire a special kind of longing, like when season five commemorated the deaths of Rosenthal's parents by replacing a recurring video call sequence from previous seasons with jokes honoring them.

"People say, 'It seems like you love everything.' I do love everything I put in the show," Rosenthal said of the food in the final cut. But obviously, that also applies to people, Places and things.

Below, Rosenthal talks about his first trip to Europe, seeing his parents as sitcom characters, and what it was like to be the poster boy for boundless enthusiasm.

Rosenthal in Finland, Season 5 of "Feed Phil." Netflix

Many New Yorkers pride themselves on never leaving, but you've obviously been away a lot. Do you remember the first time you went abroad?

I love this question because it changed my life. Growing up, we didn't have much money at all, and we barely traveled anywhere. I think I went anywhere out of state when I was nine—I went to Atlanta for a bar mitzvah, and I thought that was travel. But it wasn’t until I was 23 that I took a DHL express flight to Europe. DHL, before they had their own cargo planes, they shipped things as excess baggage for passengers. So they need people to have economy class tickets to travel anywhere in the world. So I went, I believe it was a flight to Frankfurt. I got off the bus in Frankfurt and handed the luggage tag to a man holding a DHL logo. Then these two weeks are when I do what I want to do.

I met a friend who had been on the same flight the day before and we hopped on the train and headed straight to Paris. As I walked out of the train station, I thought my life had changed forever. It's absolutely spectacular to walk the streets of Paris and see the buildings and landscapes, how beautiful they are, how hard people work to preserve them, and the history behind each building and the city as a whole. I can not believe it. Then as if that wasn't good enough, I ate something.

That's it.

The top of my head fell off. I traveled from there overnight to Florence, Italy, where I met two kids my age on the train and we stayed up all night drinking, talking and laughing, barely able to understand each other. They are my lifelong friends, Dania and Dario. And they said, "This is our address. This is the bakery where we work."

I went to the bakery - this was 1983 - and I'll never forget that. They fed me like there was no tomorrow. [The baker] gave me everything in the bakery. Then he called his friend and said, "A boy from America is coming!" The lady on the street brought me a sandwich she had made, and others brought me ice cream from their shops. Well, how could you not fall in love with Italy and these specific people, but also the whole idea of ​​traveling? It was like they were conspiring to make my life great.

It seems like everyone wants to feed you since you were little, and that's a good thing for you!

I welcome this. I love the title of our show because it connotes a person who really needs to be fed and really can't take care of himself. This part is correct.

"I just use food and my silly sense of humor to connect with you."

The show is about your travels, but it also places a lot of emphasis on your family—from the episodic Skype sessions you had with your parents when they were still alive, to the invitations you made to your wife and children on some of your trips. Was it a conscious choice to involve your family versus more culinary professionals?

I have no idea. I feel like family and friends are always a part of everything I do. I Skype with parents on every episode, not just of "Somebody Feed Phil," but also of the PBS show [" I'll Have What Phil's Have "]. It all started when I was shooting the movie "Export Raymond" and I had a Skype call with them from Moscow and they were a hit on the movie. I thought, "Oh, if I had any other kind of show, I'd have to remember this."

I come from the sitcom world and these are the best recurring characters you could hope for. They're really funny, they're really sweet, and we love seeing them. I miss them very much.

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I'm so sorry for the passing of your dad, Max, but I love that you kept the video call part of the season going by having friends tell jokes in his memory. How did you come up with this idea?

This is almost immediate. First, my mom passed away and we finished a season without her, just my dad. When he died, I naturally thought, what would he have liked? We love his jokes. What better legacy could there be? I now have my family and friends carrying on his legacy.

You may be thinking, what does this have to do with food? there is nothing. This ties into the real larger theme of the show, since the theme of the show isn't actually food. I just use food and my silly sense of humor to connect with you. I think traveling allows you to have that kind of human connection. I hope this comes to pass.

It's true, because it's impossible to watch this show without feeling your infectious enthusiasm. How does it feel for people to associate it with you?

I want to cry when I think about this, because this is something beyond a dream. I feel like you're talking to the luckiest person you've ever met. Because I know how hard life is for a lot of people.

You can't create anything unless you like it. You have to like it before others like it. So all you see is my natural passion for what I'm trying to do. But the point of this show is that you can do it too. Turn it off and go!

Somebody Feed Phil is all about travel and trying new things. What is one of the most important things you’ve learned while working?

Here's a generalization: most people in the world are much better off than their governments.

I hope this is true.

it is true. I've met many of them. I haven’t seen the whole world – I probably haven’t even scratched the surface. But most people want what you want: clean air, food and water, safety, a better life for their children and families, right? And laugh and have fun in life.

I also find that no matter where I go, I can get a good meal almost anywhere. The funny thing is, no matter what culture I meet, they always say, "No, we really like to eat," or, "Unless you sit at a Greek table, you haven't eaten." Oh really? ? Guess who feels the same way? The Chinese, the Italians...everyone on earth is like, "Wait, you want to see dinner? Wait until you come to our house."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.