Food, Travel and a Whole ‘Lotta Heart

After my trip to Paris last year (a city which I’d only visited previously for a whirlwind 48 hours in 2005), I returned home a bit perplexed about where to go next. I’ve always had someplace in mind, a next destination to save for and dream of; I spent nearly five years anticipating my trip to India!

Enter Somebody Feed Phil, the Netflix food and travel show featuring Phil Rosenthal as he dad-jokes his way through some of the world’s most amazing cities, eating their most amazing food.

Rosenthal’s claim to fame is being the creator of the turn-of-the-millenium sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Apparently, set as he is with those syndication deals, Rosenthal has turned his attention to his other passion: food. In 2015, he partnered with PBS for six episodes of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, a very long title for a very good show. You can still watch all six episodes on Netflix, but in 2018 the content giant nabbed Rosenthal from PBS and launched a re-branded version of his adventures, Somebody Feed Phil, this time with a theme song!

The show (either version, with a new season premiering on Friday, July 6) is, to use just a word, delightful. 

Everything about the show is enjoyable, from the food, restaurants and chefs we’re introduced to alongside the cities they call home to Rosenthal’s up-for-anything attitude, his silly sense of humor and his Skype check-ins with his charming, aging parents back home. More than this, the show has something that so much of what the media we consume is missing these days: heart.

You see, Rosenthal’s sincerity—how much he really loves food, really loves travel, really loves people—practically radiates off the screen in every episode. He savors every bite, every sip of whatever’s in front of him, basking in the pure joy of the experience. His eyes go wide with child-like wonder when he’s greeted with a new breathtaking view or historical revelation. He charms the pants off elevator operators, line cooks and tour guides alike. 

Not an episode goes by that Rosenthal doesn’t genuinely connect with whomever is showing him around town, sharing their favorite meals at their favorite spots or exploring the ins and outs of their hometown. An unexpected question or an impromptu introduction or a witty aside, and he’s in—he’s your friend now, your confident, your cheerleader, your co-conspirator. 

Which brings me back to my lack of travel plans post-Paris. Having discovered (and fallen in love with) I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, I was stoked to see Somebody Feed Phil pop up on my Netflix recommendations. I’m not ashamed to say I spent a weekend with Rosenthal, a binge I highly recommend.

“Go someplace on a hunch. Off the beaten path. Someplace you don’t know a ton about. And if you’re really lucky, you might end up in Lisbon.” -Phil Rosenthal

In the fourth episode of the first season, Rosenthal and crew explore Lisbon. It took all of 10 minutes into the hour-long affair for Portugal’s capital city to jump to the top of my Must Visit list. I watched the episode captivated by the beauty and history, not to mention all but salivating over the pastries and seafood. When Rosenthal visits an Indian-inspired Portugese eatery, I nearly booked my ticket then and there (and four months or so later, I’d eat a dal curry from that same place!). 

I’m not big into food shows; I never got into the Food Network, and my idea of a great cooking competition is the high stakes of The Great British Baking Show. But Somebody Feed Phil is different. It’s a dose of heart, humanity and connectivity in hour-long increments, with some delicious meals and beautiful scenery added in for good measure. Depending on when you read this, there’s one or two seasons streaming on Netflix. Either way, I recommend carving out a bit of time and savoring every single one of them.

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might just book some plane tickets.