Netflix Somebody Feed Phil star, Phil Rosenthal, visits Edinburgh for Usher Hall show
Phil Rosenthal’s television show was lockdown comfort viewing.
The first series of Somebody Feed Phil came out in 2018, before another five were released.
When I watched the show, travel and treats were in short supply. Through this presenter, 63, we could vicariously eat our way round Mexico City, Croatia, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Santiago, among many other destinations.
This appearance accompanies the UK release of the New York Times bestselling, Somebody Feed Phil: The Book (Simon & Schuster, £25). In fact, the stage show began as a bookshop tour, until an awful lot of people started showing up.
Despite the fact that Rosenthal, who created sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran from 1996 to 2005, is seasoned in the showbiz world, he hadn’t been on stage before.
“I was in school plays, but now it's just me telling my stories,” says Rosenthal, and he’s taken the show to various locations, including Glasgow.
However, it’s been a while since he brought his unbridled enthusiasm to the Capital.
“This will be my first time back to Edinburgh in 10 years and I'm so excited because I was so totally charmed by it. I always wanted to come back. But you know life happens and when you're in my business, it takes you all over the world,” he says.
What does he remember of his last trip?
“That main street. Yeah, you go from castle to castle. And it's so historically beautiful. The people were so charming and lovely. The food was great. What I've heard is, like many places in the world, the food scene has just exploded. Now you have all these Michelin restaurants”.
We’re sure that Rosenthal will already have a few bookings in place - “of course, try to keep me away” - but he’s keeping quiet about exactly where he’ll be having dinner. We can only guess that this might be because he’ll also be filming an episode.
Netflix, who have just commissioned an incredible seventh series of Somebody Feed Phil, do try to keep these things under wraps. However, when I speak to Rosenthal, he’s outside the new Levain Bakery in LA, where there’s a queue for their famous cookies.
As we chat, the “president of Netflix” interrupts our conversation and seems oblivious to the fact that Rosenthal is in the middle of an interview, though he does point out my Zoom presence.
Anyway, I’m now privy to where this presenter will be going after his Edinburgh visit, and it’s even colder than Scotland.
We’re sure that, if he’s filming in the Capital, he'll get spotted anyway.
It’s inevitable, when you’re so tall and conspicuous, I say, and he adds, “and I always have something in my mouth”.
There’s no hiding from social media.
“It happens in every location. Everybody puts it on their Instagram so it gets out anyway,” he says.
Rosenthal does have a huge fan club. When he announced his visit to Edinburgh, messages underneath the post begged him to come to other cities, all over the world. However, it’s our turn.
Although he won’t share what he’s planning to eat, there’s a sense that he prefers humbler foods. He loves haggis, and a Scotch egg, though I tell him that it was invented in England.
On Somebody Feed Phil, he pulls his signature wide-eyed happy face most often when he’s handling a vast pastry or scoop of ice-cream.
“You're right. I think my favourite thing is food from childhood - comfort food as they call it - that’s somehow been elevated to being the best you've ever had. That's my Holy Grail. But I also love trying new things,” he says. “And I don’t go to three star Michelin restaurants very often. I've been lucky enough to have my share of those kinds of meals. To be honest, my back hurts from sitting for so long. Honestly, I'd rather go to a one star Michelin than a three star. Just because you get great food that’s casual”.
When Rosenthal originally pitched his show and was inspired by his culinary hero, he described himself as; “exactly like Anthony Bourdain, if he was afraid of everything”.
Except, in the latest series he does many brave things, including diving (and cutting his hand) when fishing for one of the late Bourdain’s favourite foods, sea urchin.
“I even got hurt and I still did it,” he says. “I have gotten braver doing the show. That’s exactly what happens to you if you travel. The biggest scary thing to everyone is the unknown. Things become more known”.
It’s for this reason that he recently co-wrote a children’s book with his daughter, Lily, 20, an actor. This is called Just Try It! And is the tale of a five-year-old girl who’s frightened of new foods. According to Rosenthal, his protégée has a developed palate these days.
Along with the other members of his family, Lily will be coming with him on tour to Scotland.
She’s not the only one who’s involved in the business, with Phil’s younger brother, Rich, as the executive producer of Somebody Feed Phil.
Sadly, this duo’s parents, Helen and Max, died a couple of years ago. They often appeared on the programme, while their eldest son Skype’d to tell them about his latest adventures. The final episode of the most recent series was made in homage to their close relationship.
“We did this beautiful tribute,” he says. “It's my favourite episode for obvious reasons. I just think everyone should film their parents, talk to them, or get their stories while they're still with us, then you'll have them forever”.
An Evening with Phil Rosenthal of Somebody Feed Phil is at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, July 8, 8pm, tickets £33, www.livenation.co.uk
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