Somebody Feed Phil, the Netflix series hosted by TV producer and scribe Phil Rosenthal (Everybody Loves Raymond), returns tomorrow for its second course. Season 1 aired earlier this year and quickly became a bright light during cynical times.
I’m going to be completely candid and admit that I’m a huge fan of Somebody Feed Phil. I adore Phil’s style, the wonder and excitement that he exudes when he tries something new, and the way that he tries to understand countries and cultures through food. His enthusiasm and joy are palpable. I find it hard not to be emotionally affected by his travels. It never fails to put a smile on my face, and at times, even bring a tear to my eye. His effort to unite the world one dish at a time is uplifting.
I was so lucky to chat with Phil during the ATX Television Festival last month following a screening of Season 2’s magical Venice episode. Read our conversation below, and get ready to binge your way through six new episodes of Somebody Feed Phil, starting July 6th only on Netflix.
You start this season off in Venice and then head to New York, Copenhagen, Dublin, Buenos Aires and Capetown. How did you choose which cities to visit in Season 2?
We’re still in the early stages of the show. Hopefully I get to do more, but there’s a goal. It’s not just that I get to eat, which is nice, but the goal is to get you to travel. I think the world would be better if we all could experience a bit of someone else’s experience. Two thirds of us don’t even have a passport in America. If I want you to travel and you are afraid of traveling, I’m starting with Earth’s greatest hits. What makes a greatest hit? It’s world-famous for several reasons: it’s beautiful, the food is great, the people are great, it’s comfortable, and for Americans, almost everybody speaks English so it’s going to be easy for you to go. It’s very easy to show you these cities and what’s appealing about them. You look at Venice, and you don’t need me to tell you it’s beautiful. I think every place that we’ve been so far has all of those elements. And the best thing about each place is always the people.
Venice is the star of the first new episode, but you also visit Modena and spend time with the incomparable Massimo Bottura. What can you share about that experience?
He’s a great guy. We’ve become friends, so not only did I get to spend that whole day with him in Modena, but in the New York episode, he just happened to be there when we were there. We went to Peter Luger’s steakhouse with him. It was really fun. Then, off camera, he came to LA and we went out for dinner. I took him to Sumo Dog, which is a Korean hot dog place on Western Avenue. He loved it. He brought his whole crew with him. They were in town cooking for an event and he brought the whole staff. I didn’t think that he would be into this kind of a hot dog place, but he loved it. That’s what you’ve got to love that guy.
Italy has a bit of a fascination with American hot dogs. When I went to Italy years ago, my cousins kept asking me what hot dogs were like in America.
They’re great. You know where they’re really great? In Copenhagen. That’s a show coming up and I couldn’t believe how good they were. They do a kind of Chicago-style dog with where they drag it through the garden except the garden is Danish, so then you get their stuff. It’s delicious. Copenhagen’s like a utopian society. It’s just beautiful.
I really believe that one of the best parts of your show is trying everything, even if it scares you.
The tasting is its own reward. It’s a metaphor for everything. Just try it. We’re not children. What’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. That’s what we tell our kids. Just try it. You might like it and then when you do like it, now you found something to add to your life.
What was the one food that you hated growing up that you rediscovered as an adult and now absolutely love?
That’s a great question because the answer pops right into my head. Steak. I used to joke that in our house meat was a punishment. We got the cheapest cut of meat. It was put in the oven to within an inch of its life. We used to joke that my mom had a setting on the oven for shoe. It would be tough and gray and hard to chew. Hard to eat. It hurt my jaws to think about it. So, as I grew up, people would say, “You want to go to a steakhouse?” No! Who would want to eat steak? Not me.
Steak was bad until I went to Gallagher’s in Midtown Manhattan when I was in my twenties. I actually said, “Do you think I can get something else there?” And then the steak came in and I said, “What’s that?” I didn’t know what it was. Looking at this thing, it was beautiful. I was like, “That’s steak?” My friend cut me a piece, and it was beautiful. Red. Juicy. I tasted it. This was like nothing I’d ever had. It was life changing. When you have that thing that’s the best version of that thing you ever had, I think that’s what we look for. Even the things that we loved as kids — hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers — you find the best one of that in your travels, and that becomes your favorite thing.
Totally selfish question since I’m from Toronto … will we see you in Canada at some point?
Absolutely. It’s on the list. I’ve got to get to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver. I mean, there’s a lot in Canada. If I’m on long enough, I’m going to hit them all.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix