Television writer and producer Phil Rosenthal is back at it. This time, in season 6 of the Netflix food and travel documentary series Somebody Feed Phil, he’s hunting for hoagies in Philadelphia and bingeing on burek in small Croatian cafés.
For the uninitiated, Rosenthal travels the world in Somebody Feed Phil, touring cities, trying local cuisines and just eating a whole lot of food. The docu-series is also dubbed as a successor to Rosenthal’s previous show on PBS—I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.
Over the past few seasons, he has been everywhere, from Madrid to Marrakech, Copenhagen to Cape Town. Season 6, which dropped on Netflix on 18 October, sees Rosenthal travel to Philadelphia, Austin and Nashville in the US, Santiago, Chile, and go island-hopping and snorkel for sea urchins in Croatia.
But it’s not just about the food. Every episode sees Rosenthal explore the featured city’s history, meeting local celebrities and often visiting non-profits working in the region. Then there’s the focus on architecture—a subject that is clearly very dear to Rosenthal. The Chicago episode from season 3 is a good example of that, as is his visit to Croatia in the latest season.
The level of research and work done on the ground continues to shine through in season 6. To give just one example, Rosenthal enjoys some of the best barbecue in Austin, Texas, with the “barbecue editor” of the Texas Monthly magazine. Who knew such an editorial position even existed?
Which brings me to the next point. What continues to stand out in this new season is Rosenthal’s ability to gel seamlessly with the locals. Not everyone knows that Rosenthal is the creator of the famous comedy sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. His comforting, friendly and funny demeanour barely reflects that past success. Only Rosenthal would sit next to a trash can outside a Philadelphia pizzeria and share slices of pie with strangers waiting for their orders. It’s an art.
The new season concludes with a moving tribute to Rosenthal’s late parents, Helen and Max, who died in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Rosenthal’s parents, as you will see in earlier seasons, used to feature frequently in episodes, often speaking to Rosenthal over video call as he travelled the world. While his father had a penchant for witty Jewish jokes, in one episode from season 2 (New York), Rosenthal invited renowned French chef Daniel Boulud to try his mother’s matzah ball soup. The 32-minute tribute episode, in season 6, serves as a soothing conclusion to what has been a fun-filled journey since the series began in January 2018. One sincerely hopes that a seventh season is in the works.
Perhaps the only gripe is the fact that India—and Indian food—still hasn’t been explored in the series, apart from a brief segment in the 2018 New York City episode from season 2 where Rosenthal visits the Ganesh Temple in Flushing, Queens, to try a spread of south Indian cuisine with the late Indian-born American chef Floyd Cardoz.
If you are reading this, Phil, come to India. You won’t be disappointed.
Apart from that, Somebody Feed Phil leaves you happy and hungry for more—a feel-good show that will leave you with a long list of places to visit and food to try. It’s best described, perhaps, with a famous Philly word Rosenthal discovers in season 6 while sharing his pizza with strangers: delicioso.