Phil eating in restaurant

Image: Courtesy of Netflix/2020

“Somebody Feed Phil” Is a Show That Delivers More Than Food

Let’s talk about cookies.

In the third season of “Somebody Feed Phil,” host Phil Rosenthal kicks off an episode in London, running out of local department store Fortnum & Mason, clutching a pack of cookies. Giddy, he shows off his loot. “These are my favorite store-bought cookies,” he says, while quite literally hopping toward the camera. “Fortnum & Mason Dark Chocolate Coated Chocolate Pearl Biscuits. You will not find a better chocolate cookie. They wrap it really well, too.” As a viewer, you can’t help but wonder: How excited can someone actually get about a box of cookies? If you’re Phil Rosenthal… a whole lot.

“Somebody Feed Phil” premiered on Netflix in 2018 and now has four seasons under its belt. The culinary travel docuseries is chronicled by the soothing and delightful Rosenthal, the brains behind the uber-successful “Everybody Loves Raymond”—which he created, wrote and executive produced—and “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having,” another food-obsessed program that aired on PBS in 2015.

Armchair travel feeds our wanderlust

In each of the 22 episodes of “Somebody Feed Phil,” the host travels to a different city and takes his audience on a culinary journey to highlight the foods of the area while meeting the locals. If you think the program is intended only for the gastronomically curious, think again: It appeals to a variety of human tendencies that go well beyond the palate—especially during a global pandemic that has virtually shut down life, and travel, as we know it.

Although food and travel have always been a winning combination, both in real life and on TV, there is something about this Netflix production that tugs harder at the heartstrings. Armchair travel at its finest, it’s an uplifting series that doesn’t seek to prove it knows more than the viewer does, but actually explores a destination the way average folks—us!—would. In a way, Rosenthal travels like we would travel.

Take the New York episode, for example (season 2, episode 6). Likely one of the most familiar destinations, at least to American viewers, it’s a treasure trove of culinary highlights. Rosenthal’s selections include Blue Hill at Stone Barns—a two-Michelin-star eatery north of the city—but also hotdogs on Coney Island and Di Fara’s Pizza and Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn. As a general statement, the host doesn’t dwell too much on the ingredients of what he’s eating—as a Food Network show host might—but tells us just enough to have us exhort “Yum!” to the screen and add the destinations to our personal bucket list.

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Joy in every bite and every step

When watching “Somebody Feed Phil,” you cannot escape the simple fact that Rosenthal is having fun. The unabashed way he rejoices at every aspect of his trips—including those store-bought cookies—reminds us of the pure ebullience and joy that travel can bring. It nudges our hopeful expectations that we will indeed embark on journeys again and experience this joy for ourselves once more.

So pronounced is Rosenthal’s elation that, for a few fleeting seconds during each episode, you might doubt his glee. How can someone be so ecstatic about eating Montreal-style bagels, after all? Is he really enjoying harvesting lotus stems at the crack of dawn in Saigon or learning how to devour crawfish in New Orleans? But you simply can’t fake this. Rosenthal is really that happy.

Along for the ride

There’s something to be said about feel-good TV, the category in which “Somebody Feed Phil” belongs. Rosenthal has clearly figured that out and, hopefully, through his show, he’ll help us get there as well.

And this is what makes it so easy, so perfectly delicious, to follow Rosenthal on his food-inspired adventures, from Tel Aviv to the Mississippi Delta, Dublin to Marrakesh. Happiness is infectious and that’s a feeling worth leaning in to—right now and always. And you never know, “Somebody Feed Phil” just might inform your future travel plans.

Program availability may have changed and is subject to change.

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