Around the world in food: New Netflix show dares you to 'Feed Phil'
'Everybody Loves Raymond' creator Phil Rosenthal has won a James Beard Award for his foodie travels.
Phil Rosenthal is like a kid in a candy store. Or, to be more precise, a man traveling the globe eating the best food in the world. The 57-year-old's child-like enthusiasm is infectious. Conde Nast Traveler has called him "impossibly optimistic." Each place he visits, each meal he eats, comes across as the best thing since sliced bread.
It's that vigor and voice that won Rosenthal a prestigious James Beard Award, the Oscars of the food industry. And it's why Netflix has signed him up to host his own food and travel show. "Somebody Feed Phil" debuts this weekend on the streaming service.
In the first six episodes, Rosenthal travels to Saigon, Lisbon, Bangkok, Tel Aviv, Mexico City, and New Orleans, visiting a mix of famous restaurants, family tables, and roadside stands. At the end of each episode, Rosenthal checks in with his travel-averse parents via video chat to tell them about what he ate.
"The whole point of the show is to get you to travel," he said. "I want you to get up off the couch and look at me and say, 'If that putz can go outside, maybe I can too.'"
The first episode takes Phil to Israel where he visits the burgeoning food scene in Tel Aviv. He also spends time with Uri "Buri" Jeremias, nicknamed the Santa Claus of seafood, whose restaurant in the Israeli coastal city of Acre is world-famous. The eatery was featured in the documentary "In Search of Israeli Cuisine," which is also available on Netflix.
"I'm always delighted at the opportunity to share Israel's culinary offerings with a broader audience," said Jeremias. "I'm honored that Phil & Netflix decided that Uri Buri was among the best representatives of Israeli cuisine. I'm happy to report that Phil left full and very happy."
"What I loved most was the people I met, and the food was spectacular," Rosenthal said of his trip to Israel. "I had the best chicken pita of my life there.”
Rosenthal and his producers do research online before they visit each city, but they also talk to locals for suggestions once they arrive. He said the best meal he's had so far was a crab omelette from a woman who was operating a street cart in Bangkok. Last month, she received a coveted Michelin Star for her food but – in an unheard-of turn of events – said she wanted to return the star. "It's too much," Rosenthal quipped.
Rosenthal catapulted to stardom in the 1990s as the creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond." After the show went off the air, he discovered that his everyman persona worked well in front of the camera. A hilarious 2010 documentary called "Exporting Raymond" followed Rosenthal as he traveled to Moscow to retool the hit sitcom for Russian audiences.
Eventually, Rosenthal became fed up with working on network TV. "It was annoying," he revealed. So he launched a food and travel show on PBS called "I'll Have What Phil's Having," which he subsequently decided to move to Netflix. Rosenthal appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last night to talk about the the best food he ate this season, and also brought along a video clip of an elephant smacking him.
He is already working on the next season of "Somebody Feed Phil," which will air this summer on Netflix. Cities for those episodes include Cape Town, South Africa as well as potential U.S. locales like Chicago and Hawaii.
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