The untold truth of Somebody Feed Phil

When it comes to hosting a food-centric travel series, Phil Rosenthal is an unlikely candidate. With no formal kitchen experience and – truth be told – minimal on-camera time during the majority of his career, the host of Netflix's Somebody Feed Phil is better known for his role as the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. The relatable Long Island-based sitcom ran for nine seasons, with the majority of the series' laughs centered around the tight-knit Barone clan, whose storylines were largely based on a blend of real-life events experienced by Rosenthal, star Ray Romano, and the writers for the show (via CBS News).

From the inception of Everybody Loves Raymond, Rosenthal's fascination with food was apparent. "We use food to define the politics of the family," he said during an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 2000. Rosenthal's appetite was apparent off the set as well. The writer and creator dubbed his Raymond-era production company Where's Lunch, a reflection his favorite part of the day.

Rosenthal takes his culinary curiosities into the spotlight

Somebody Feed Phil follows the same basic premise as its one-season precursor, I'll Have What Phil's Having. The PBS program aired in 2015 (via Hollywood Reporter) and enabled Rosenthal to take his culinary curiosities into the spotlight. I'll Have What Phil's Having followed Rosenthal around to six unique locations, including Paris, Tokyo, and Barcelona, where he tried local specialties with his signature wide-eyed enthusiasm. Tapping into his family-focused roots and Hollywood connections, the early episodes of Rosenthal's culinary travelogue featured cameos from well-known comedians and actors and appearances by his own parents and kids.

I'll Have What Phil's Having was a hit with critics and audiences alike, winning a James Beard Broadcast Media award over the course of its singular season. On January 9th, 2017, Rosenthal announced via a Twitter video at a restaurant that his food and travel show would be moving from PBS to Netflix. The move made sense for all parties, considering that the high cost of production was better handled by a big-budget streaming service versus PBS, which is more like the TV equivalent of a mom-and-pop shop by comparison.

Rosenthal's food-filled adventures

In 2018, Netflix rolled out the premier season of Somebody Feed Phil, six slick episodes where the host eats his way through crab omelets in Bangkok and handmade tortillas in Mexico City (via The Takeout), with each installment wrapping with a video call to Rosenthal's parents regaling them with tales of his food-filled adventures. Some reviewers, such as The Takeout's founding editor, Kevin Pang, praised Rosenthal's kindhearted and inquisitive nature, but Eater's pop culture editor, Greg Morabito, found him a bit too amateurish and unfocused.

Three seasons in, Rosenthal is still eating his way around the world, although that hasn't translated into elevated kitchen skills. When Deadline asked Rosenthal about his cooking chops, he replied: "I would say, on a scale of 1 to 10, not so good. Don't have the talent or the temperament. I know, I have a food and travel show and I don't cook. But I meet a lot of great chefs around the world and they can't write a sitcom. We all contribute in our way."

Rosenthal's sitcom background is apparent

Rosenthal's sitcom background is apparent in many aspects of Somebody Feed Phil, whether it's a squirm-inducing awkward hug or an occasional Oprah impression. The series' theme song also has a sitcom feel to it, and that's no coincidence. Rosenthal co-wrote the Emmy-nominated opener with the band Lake Street Drive (via Deadline).

Rosenthal might spend a lot of time dining on screen, but his day-to-day life involves an even deeper connection to the restaurant industry. In an interview with Fast Company, Rosenthal said that he's an investor in 25 restaurants, including HiHo, which serves grass-fed burgers. For him, investing in these businesses is more of a passion project. "I never do it to make money 'cause it's a really stupid way to try to make money," he explained. "It's like investing in a Broadway show. But I love it so much that I want to support it."