At first glance, Somebody Feed Phil seems like just another food and travel show hosted by a middle-aged white man. But Phil Rosenthal is the creator of the 90s hit show Everybody Loves Raymond. Why is that important? Because every episode of Somebody Feed Phil speaks volumes of his sitcom background. There is a central character (Phil), a central subject for each episode (the city of choice), and recurring characters (his family, old and new friends he met on his travels). Here are my favourite things about the show.
Why you should watch Somebody Feed Phil
1. The Opening Theme Song by Lake Street Dive is a happy number. It will make you want to tap your feet while taking in the delicious culinary montage. The catchy tune perfectly captures the show’s essence and stays with you even after it has ended. It’s definitely not a ‘Skip Intro’ scenario.
2. The Comedy tropes and pairings are naturally funny. Phil’s parents, Max and Helen, are a comic duo with an impeccable sense of humour. Their bickering and sarcasm are reminiscent of their yesteryear onscreen counterparts, the Barones. Inside jokes from the family around how Richard is the favourite child, or Helen’s lack of cooking skills, are quite a delight to watch.
3. Phil, as a character, comes across as the “happy and hungry man”. His childlike enthusiasm and no pretence of sophistication make him a lovable host. Rather than portraying a connoisseur or an outdoorsman, his fondness for people and families shines through. As the season winds down, he calls up his family to share some of the food he has eaten. A pure golden retriever at heart, that’s what he is!
4. The characters you remember are chefs and food enthusiasts incredibly passionate about food, the culinary community, and their city. Jay Fai, the Thai chef who fries crab omelettes with goggles, Shole Olunloyo from Philly, who cooks everything within seconds in a raging hot coal oven, and Aunt Flo from Doe’s Eat Place in the Mississippi Delta are some of the characters who keep Somebody Feed Phil lively and entertaining.
Here’s a tasting menu of my favourite episodes from each season of Somebody Feed Phil:
Season 1: Mexico City
From the look of wonder on Phil’s face as he tastes tacos al pastor for the first time to his excitement as he dips churros into a big cup of chocolate sauce, the food moments are a real treat. This excitement balances with the soulfulness of the show, where we see his parents tell him to share with his brother or his awe as he witnesses the dramatic sunset from the hotel rooftop.
The Mexico City episode has some of my favourite Phil moments. The episode captures Xochimilco (a district of Mexico City) beautifully. First, Phil enjoys a hearty meal at the renowned chef Enrique Olvera’s restaurant, Pujol. Later, he shares a meal with the chef’s family. He also indulges in tacos, migas, and questionable street meats with food blogger Bill Esparza. However, pulque, a Mexican alcoholic drink, is where he draws the line. When he realises that the alcohol is a somewhat acquired taste, he hands some to Richard to see the funny look on his face.
Season 2: Copenhagen
Where Mexico City is about tradition, Copenhagen is about innovation. Phil rarely has the whole family on for the show. However, they get together in Copenhagen for his son Ben’s birthday meal. The party is at Matt Orlando’s restaurant, Amass, an eco-friendly outdoor dining establishment inspired by the New Nordic Cuisine. This cuisine pursues sustainability. The season vibrantly showcases hotdogs at Døp, alcohol-infused ice cream drinks at Bolderdash, Mexican food with a Danish twist at Hija de Sanchez, and cheeseburgers at Gasoline Grill. In addition, Phil does the ‘embarrassing, scared dad’ bit at the amusement park Tivoli Gardens, playing dead after the roller coaster ride. I came away from this episode truly informed and quite impressed by the Danish city.
Season 3: Marrakesh
In Season 3, one-half of the iconic couple has passed away, and Max Rosenthal appears without Helen, with Phil’s wife Monica by his side. North Africa is very different from Phil’s usual haunts. Chef Moha, a boisterous Moroccan celebrity chef, takes him on a tour of the ‘mellah’, an Arab spice market. Phil witnesses the sunset ‘azan’, an evening prayer in Islam, for the first time in a rooftop restaurant, which greatly mesmerises him. This episode has two family meals—one at Chef Moha’s house and the other with a family in the Atlas mountains. During the latter, he learns the etiquette of eating couscous and discusses the Amazigh heritage, the pre-Arab descendants of North Africa. They serve him with a whole lamb, cooked in the Mechoui barbeque style. Additionally, he visits Project Soar, where they’re encouraging female leadership, and they teach him the art of pouring tea.
Season 4: Hawaii
Hawaii becomes the land of adventure for Phil. His brother, Richard, has him walking around on cooled lava rocks, rowing with a crew, and ziplining. The forced outdoor activities leave Phil muttering, ‘Stupid Richard’. His wife Monica says—‘Now he does everything’, mocking her husband for preferring the hotel room every other time they’d had an opportunity for such adventures.
Next, we meet Uncle Clay from Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, a character that fits perfectly with the show—all heart, full of hugs, and good cheer. The audience catches a glimpse of the Kaka’ako murals, the surfing waves of the North Shore, the Kahua Ranch and the Sheep Farm at the northern tip of the Big Island, all of which stand for the varied landscapes of Hawaii. Apart from the picturesque landscape, the extensive menus of Senia (a new American restaurant), The Pig and the Lady (a Vietnamese restaurant), The Feeding Leaf, and GJ’s Huli Chicken represent the culturally rich diversity of Hawaii.
Season 5: Portland
Thanks to Fred Armisen’s TV series, Portlandia, the whimsical city of Portland, Oregon, has always interested me. Restaurateur couple Bonnie and Israel Morales own Kachka, a restaurant that aims at making Russian cuisine part of people’s “mental Rolodex of food”. However, the specialities of Portland’s food scene are the food trucks. Peter Cho, one of Portland’s acclaimed chefs, takes Phil to Ruthie’s, where food is rooted in the Mormon tradition with a Portland flare. He meets the Morales again in their stall at the Feast Portland Food Festival. In addition, he tastes Thai chicken and rice at the restaurant Nong’s Khao Man Gai. In Portland, Phil discovers the joys of eating in one big bite. Once again, Phil has to go on an adventure—forced by Stupid Richard, no less—kayaking at the peaceful lake in Clackamas county.
Shortly after, Max Rosenthal passes away. In the rest of season 5, Phil calls friends and family in a segment called ‘A Joke for Max’. In this segment, they tell a joke that the late Mr Rosenthal would have enjoyed or told himself.
Season 6: Croatia
Game of Thrones has made Croatia popular since the show was shot here. Croatia is a step back into history, where the towns of Split, Hvar, and Korcula feature ancient architecture surrounded by water. The Diocletian Palace has a mausoleum-turned-cathedral and an Egyptian sphinx circa 2000 BC. The food, too, is rustic—Ottoman bureks (meat pies), Bosnian cevapi (a ground beef dish), and gelatos with lavender and lemon are pretty famous here. Richard has Phil diving for sea urchins this time, and the poor man gets stung through his gloves. Richard then goes diving himself and picks up a few urchins with no problems. Is it any wonder he’s the family favourite? He even sits with the family that runs the restaurant and bar, Konoba Maha. To top it all off, after a few drinks, the men start singing old love songs.
The last episode of Season 6 is a tribute to Max and Helen Rosenthal. There’s no way to watch that episode with dry eyes if you’ve been following Somebody Feed Phil along as I have.
If you feel nostalgic for 90s comedy shows, Somebody Feed Phil might be just what the doctor ordered. If you’re intrigued by all the restaurants and cuisines, visit Phil’s website. But first, watch the show and let us know how you liked it.