Our Interview with Phil Rosenthal on the State of Travel, Food, Humor and Making Connections

We are beyond thrilled to interview the musing and very animated Phil Rosenthal. Rosenthal has been widely known as the creator of the beloved 1996 sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, however, todayPhil Rosenthal is best known as a food enthusiast and most importantly as the creator and the main character in the unscripted  Netflix travel/food series Somebody Feed Phil, earning him his 13th career Emmy nomination. Rosenthal was born in Queens, New York and moved with his parents and brother to New City, New York in Rockland County, where he was raised. After graduating from Hofstra University on Long Island, where he majored in theater, he embarked on a career as an actor, writer and director in New York City. In 1989, he relocated to Los Angeles.

Somebody Feed Phil is a follow-up to Rosenthal’s PBS travel series I’ll Have What Phil’s Having—which taught the series creator how to navigate the foodie reality space. Somebody Feed Phil debuted in January of 2018, with a “Second Course” of episodes released in July making the show eligible for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. The series follows Rosenthal around as he travels the globe, sampling the food and cultural traditions. Rosenthal said it best, "food is the great connector and laughs are the great cement." He succinctly elaborated on this on our interview.  

This is part of our May theme: Perspective on Conscious and Sustainable Travel, an Interview Series that aims to catch up with a few thought leaders with the hope of helping our community get a better perspective on our new reality and casting a vision of the future that’s hopeful, inspiring and impactful. We are exploring the topic of sustainability in travel and how travelers can engage in activities that can make a lasting impact on the local economies and communities. We couldn’t think of a better person to explore this topic with but Mr. Rosenthal. Here’s our chat with Mr. Rosenthal.

There is no more mind expanding thing you can do than travel. It changes your perspective and you can’t put a price on it - it’s priceless. I travel because life is short and I want to see as much of the world that is given to us as possible.

We are thrilled and beyond excited for season three. Congratulations on the new season which will be airing May 29th 2020 at its original home, Netflix. This series is by far one of the best series about food and travel but most importantly what it means to connect and immerse yourself into world cultures. The series comedic theme is not only entertaining but riveting, thoughtful, chivalrous and educational to say the least. What a great time for the show to air considering our new reality when the world is on lockdown and most people are spending time with family.

How do you feel at this moment in our history and the current state of travel and travel experiences?

It’s devastating. So many people have died and so many people are affected and that affects all of us in varying degrees. Also, the ability to travel not just travel around the world but where we live. Restaurants are so hard hit and I hope that all the ethnic restaurants don’t gets to be taken away since I eat in these restaurants almost everyday. It’s such a part of who I am including where I grew up which is New York. My desire to travel the world came from first tasting the food in the town where I grew up. So much joy comes eating at these restaurants and I hope that they never gets to be taken away since that’s a huge part of my connection with the world. 

One of my favorite quotes by you was at the 2019 New York Times Travel Show when you said: Food is the great connector and laughs are the great cement. Could you elaborate on that and how our audience and community can keep that in mind when they travel?

Many of our meetings whether social or business and family time is over the meal and during meal time. It’s ingrained in us to gather at meal time and it’s universal. Animals do it, cave men did it and us humans we were together when eating. We meet each other over a cup of coffee, snacks, meal whatever it is and that is the great connector. We are all sharing in something that’s human so we are automatically relating to each other as human beings. It’s hard to be angry at someone you just met if the food on the table is delicious, Rosenthal cheerfully stated. What bonds us closer coming from my background and the way I communicate is HUMOR therefore, humor is the cement that makes the connection very strong and is our most underrated human trade. And it’s how we choose our friends and even more so who we are going to marry - the appreciation for someone else’s humor. You want to be with someone who makes you feel good and that always almost involves smiling and laughing together. 

What’s your take on world cuisines and cultures especially when you travel?

I love almost everything. The things that don’t matter so much we avoid those things because the essence of the show is to encourage people to travel. The truth is I like everything and trying to accept everything on its own term.  For example, let’s say your favorite food is a hamburger and somebody gives you a salad. You can say I don’t like salad because you wanted a hamburger however, how is the hamburger as a salad? Well, as a salad it’s very good and that’s what it’s trying to be. You have to learn to accept and appreciate things for what they are not want you want them to be - a simple philosophy of life. 

How would you say that through travel, we could make an impact on local economies and communities and are you conscious of that element every time you travel and how?

It’s very simple: Respect as if you were an invited guest into someone’s home. Don’t look at it as, well you are on vacation. This is not just your vacation, but rather treat it as someone’s house and you are a guest. For example, if someone ask you to take your shoes off at the door, you must oblige with grace, being respectful and understanding. It’s your job as a tourist at the very least to be respectful. Stay open and be nice - treat people the way you would want to be treated. Just be nice. 

How do you think Covid-19 will help us better appreciate travel or better yet help us see travel differently compare to before? 

It’s the age old saying, you don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore. And so we may take our own freedom for granted especially the freedom to travel and be with people. We took many things for granted such as shake hands, a kiss on the check, being at a restaurant. And now to have those things taken away you realize how precious it is and how much we have taken those things for granted. In addition, there will be a boom in travel. The question is, will travel be the same? Not really. It will be a slow but cautious transition for we will still be wearing masks and things may not be as much fun as they use to be. However, that said, is it better to go and see things rather than stay home? A lot of people will be starving to travel especially those who have made plans to go on vacation. Once things get safe to travel, it will be crazy. There will be a huge tourism boom because people will be thrilled to go and even more so will realize how much they love it and how short and precious life is. I travel because life is short and I want to see as much of the world that is given to us as possible.

What did you miss most during this lockdown?

Traveling and connecting with other people.

What is a destination you can’t get enough of including the cuisine and culture?

Italy because it feels very comfortable and familiar to me considering he grew up in New York. Although, Rosenthal is not an Italian but it feels like he’s part Italian. Besides Italy, he loves everywhere the show has been including South Africa and being in South Africa made him want to see the rest of the continent. He’s looking forward to his first safari trip and exploring other parts of the continent including The Gambia and Senegal. 

Outside of filming the show, when you travel, what are some experiences you always look forward to and why?

The obvious answer is Eating. However, the best part is making new friends and he would love to visit them again because then it feels like you know people from all parts of the world and it’s such a great feeling because you feel like now you are a citizen of the world and that alone is such a great feeling. 

How have traveling impacted you personally and your perception of the world and it’s verse culture?

It’s made me fall in love with the world and to realize that the world is such a beautiful place. In addition, I find that for the most part, most people are so much better than their government. 

Lastly, what advise could you give to our audience about the difference travel makes and its essence?

 There is no more mind expanding thing you can do than travel. It changes your perspective and you can’t put a price on it - it’s simply priceless. You come back changed for the better. Everyone that travels, this happens to them and I can’t wait for all this to be over. Rosenthal urges, while you are waiting start planning. This will do two things: first, you will have a trip waiting for you. Secondly, you will feel even much better right now because you will have something to look forward to so use this time to plan. 

What can we expect from season 3?

Season 3 and 4 were all filmed right before corona so we get to see the world before corona happen and how it will be again. So it’s very important that people watch and not be sad for what they are missing. Rather, I would like for people to watch the show and get ideas about where to go next when this is over because it will be over. Watch the show and take notices so you can start planning. Season 3 airs on May 29th and season 4 will air in the Fall around October. 

How are you enjoying our interview series so far? Feel free to share your feedback with us. We hope it has been uplifting, inspiring and deliver psychological virtues such as calm or perspective so far.

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