Opinion | Phil Rosenthal embraces the power of food

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Photo courtesy of Greg Doherty/Getty Images/TNS

Columnist Storey Childs talks about writer and producer Phil Rosenthal in his change from sitcoms to a Netflix food docuseries called “Somebody Feed Phil.”

By Storey Childs, Columnist

“Somebody Feed Phil” is a Netflix travel docuseries centered around Phil Rosenthal, writer and producer of the popular sitcom “Everybody loves Raymond.” Taking a step back from the world of sitcoms, Phil embarked on a journey of food, first through a PBS show entitled “I’ll have what Phil’s having,” followed by “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Armed with an unparalleled sense of curiosity and willingness to learn, Phil travels around the world in search of authentic cultural cuisine and the experiences that follow. 

In just one of his six seasons, he has traveled the streets of Lisbon, made tortillas in Mexico City, learned how Vietnamese coffee is made and taken on a 25-course tasting menu in Bangkok. 

Distinct in its message, “Somebody Feed Phil” shows that food can facilitate invaluable cross-cultural connections.

If you were stepping into a new city and looking for food, what would you choose to start with? For Phil, the answer is an easy one: a market. 

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Five seasons into the show, Phil visits Madrid, Spain, and chooses to visit the market of the Spanish district of Salamanca: El Mercado de la Paz. One of the 46 markets in the capital city, the essence of El Mercado is one of cultural diversity and individual experiences. 

Phil believes that markets are microcosms of a city itself. As a viewer, it is easy to see that stepping into a multicultural representation of a city is a good opportunity to understand it.

Phil sat down at Casa Dani, one of the most famous food stalls in El Mercado de Paz, which sells a large amount of Tortillas Española each day. Deeply rooted in Spanish culture, tortilla española has maintained its foundation of potatoes and eggs, and has evolved alongside the population of Spain itself. 

Casa Dani served a traditional dish but made it their own. There is an undeniable connection between traditional food and the modern culture that has evolved around it, and Phil gets to experience both at the same time. 

Any fan of “Somebody Feed Phil” will come to find that having such an experience is not a rare occurrence. 

Eating his way through 32 cities, Phil visits countless restaurants and eats an almost impossible amount of food. But it is the people that he connects with that make Phil’s experiences valuable to watch. 

You can see this connection through Phil’s visit to Seoul, South Korea. One of the many experiences that Phil had was eating dinner with model and influencer Irene Kim at Mabongnim, known as the birthplace of one of the most popular Korean foods: tteokbokki.

As they sat down, Kim dove into the task of teaching Phil about her decision to move to South Korea, the importance of embracing her South Korean heritage, and even taught him how to properly cook tteokbokki. 

This connection over the steaming pot of tteokbokki created a space in which Irene and Phil could share not just food, but experiences of their own. 

Food acted as a gateway for cultural connection, a way for Phil to immerse himself in Korean culture. And it all started with tteokbokki.  

The viewer could engage with Phil’s exclamations of enjoyment and his trademark happy dances. Phil’s interactions with others are undeniably filled with joy. 

Six seasons in, Phil Rosenthal is still a light that gets brighter with each season. He enters each location, whether it be his familiar streets of New York, or the curiously unfamiliar streets of Seoul, with what can only be described as a zest for life. 

Each plate is an opportunity to learn something new, and to understand the world of another. For Phil, there is always more to learn. 

 

Storey is a junior in LAS

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