Phil Rosenthal: My New Role Model

Audrey Johnson, Diorama Executive Editor

Think you’ve binged everything on Netflix? Think again. Travel and eat across the world with Phil Rosenthal in Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil”: the delightful show that is perfect to enjoy for quarantining after your latest off campus party or procrastinating writing an essay that’s due tomorrow. The binge- worthy food docu-series will transport you from the comfort- food of your couch to dining on delicacies around the globe with your newest friend and my new role model, Phil Rosenthal.

You may recognize Rosenthal as the creator of the critically acclaimed sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the late 90s and early 00s. He’s not a food critic or expert. He’s just a regular guy with a willingness to try new things.

Although the series has received backlash for his lack of food expertise, I’d argue you don’t have to be an expert to love food and travel. I love Rosenthal for his quirky hosting style that caters the show to regular people instead of food snobs. Plus, he has a knack for making friends no matter their background and treats everyone he meets on his journey with genuine kindness that I especially feel missing in 2020’s chaotic climate.

His series premiered on Netflix in Jan. 2018 and took viewers from Bangkok to Mexico City. It was renewed for a second season which followed that summer, but I discovered him when season three dropped this May.

In the show’s episodes, Rosenthal immerses himself in a city’s culture and cuisine. I always walk away feeling like I learned something new. At the beginning of each episode, he shares the city’s history and the people who make it unique. Most importantly, how do these factors impact their food?

For example, in season 1 episode 2, Saigon, Rosenthal and the crew travel to Ho Chi Minh City to explore Vietnamese culture and cuisine. One of the first people he meets is Nikki Tran. After living in Houston, Tran blended her experience of Cajun comfort food with traditional Vietnamese recipes. She opened up her own restaurant called Cau Ba Quan. As they dine, the unexpected medley of Cajun and Vietnamese flavors mirrors the unexpected friendship that forms between the lesbian Vietnamese chef and the Jewish American television writer. Tran also makes a reappearance in the series during season 1 episode 5, New Orleans, after she invited Rosenthal to her wedding. I admire Rosenthal’s ability to meet and make new friends from any background, and Tran is one of countless friends he makes throughout the series. The show makes restaurant tours inclusive. He’ ll taste ostrich at world renowned restaurants in Cape Town, and he’ll try places that look like total dives on street corners. In every city he travels to, he asks members of the local crew for their favorite places to eat, then he tries their recommendations. I adore how Rosenthal includes the crew at least once an episode. It feels like clapping for the crew when they too take a bow after a performance; they’ re just as important to the show as their host, and he celebrates that. At a time that feels so divisive, watching this show gives me hope that we still live in a grand, kind, beautiful world. Universally, food brings people together. It’s a way a way to celebrate and share our culture, a way we bond with one another and a way we show love to each other. If the weight of the world feels heavy on your shoulders, give yourself permission to relax and enjoy what it has to offer through this show. I don’t want to spoil all the fun. Go ahead and watch it for yourself. I give “Somebody Feed Phil” four stars.