Plus his can’t-live-without travel essentials

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Phil Rosenthal invites viewers to share in his love of food and travel. The creator, executive producer, writer and host of the Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil is known to take viewers to different corners of the world with his unique brand of humour as he indulges in the joy of discovering new delicacies. 

In the newest season of the series, which is now streaming on Netflix, Rosenthal travels to Mumbai, Washington, Kyoto, Iceland, Dubai, The “Real” Orlando, Taipei and Scotland as he uncovers hidden gems and showcases the heart and soul of each city with every bite.

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Rosenthal is currently on tour for his show, An Evening with Phil Rosenthal of “Somebody Feed Phil”,  his latest sold-out show in Toronto will take place on April 28 at the Danforth Music Hall.

Ahead of his trip to Toronto, we caught up with Rosenthal to discuss season 7, his love of food and travel and his must-have travel essentials.

Q&A with Phil Rosenthal

Q: This season, you take viewers from Mumbai to Dubai and Kyoto. Culturally, what surprised you the most in terms of your expectations versus reality?
A: A couple of places. First of all, I was not prepared for the kind of emotional wallop that Kyoto is. I mean, Japan was terribly bombed during World War II, except for Kyoto, they left it alone because it was kind of the historic and cultural center of Japan. It wasn’t of any war value to them. So when you go now, there are over 2000 ancient temples and shrines and it’s the most serenely beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s magical. I got sad the first day that I was there because I knew I only had a week. That’s how gorgeous it is. It’s just spectacular and I can’t wait to go back.

Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal in episode 704 of Somebody Feed Phil. Photo by Netflix

Q: What is your secret to exploring, learning and being welcomed into these places and homes?
A: You just have to have an open mind. That’s all. I wrote a kid’s book with my daughter that just came out called Just Try It. And that’s really all it is. It’s about just trying things; having an open mind. That’s what it means. How many grown-ups do we know who won’t try new foods or [go to] new places or new ideas even? We’re so set in our ways, right? It’s really that baby step out of your comfort zone is where all the magic is. I’m not brave, really. But I’m a little braver than I was when I started the show. Because the greatest fear is the unknown. But once you do things they become known.

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Q: One of the things you say on the show is that every time you go out of your comfort zone, it’s the most memorable thing. In season seven, what was that for you?
A: Ah, I jumped in the coldest water on Earth in Iceland. My brother makes me do these things. I can’t say that was pleasant either, but I’m glad that I did it because I lived. There are other things I’ve done like ziplining that I was a little afraid of but by the second or third zipline I was kind of used to it and it was fun.  I jumped in water that was not quite as cold as Iceland in Dublin with all these crazy nice, beautiful people. I’ll tell you something, it’s such a shock to the system. Since then — that was about five years ago — every time I take a shower, at the end of the shower I turn the water to cold for 30 seconds and it’s fantastic. It wakes you up and takes you out of your head. You forget any troubles you might have and it’s a little bit of a shock, but it’s also invigorating. And that’s something I got from travel; I wouldn’t have known to do that.

Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal in episode 703 of Somebody Feed Phil. Photo by Netflix

Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever tried for the show that you truly liked?
A: Well, I can tell you something I didn’t like first. It was going around in that race car in Austin, Texas. I went 187 miles an hour in the passenger seat of a race car around the Formula One track, and I thought I was going to die. It was so unpleasant. My stomach wasn’t right for three days. I went from the racetrack to the Pepto Bismol factory.

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Q: Have you been to Toronto and do you have any favorite spots here? 
A: I have to be honest, I haven’t been there in 20 years and I can’t wait to come back. I’m so excited to do the live show this year. I love doing the show [An Evening with Phil Rosenthal]. I just did it here in Washington, DC. The people that come are the sweetest, nicest people. My favourite part is the Q+A with the audience because I get some hilarious questions and I get to tell funny stories about everything that’s happened to me in my long life and career.

Q: What other places would you like to visit for the show?
A: There are still so many places I haven’t been yet. I haven’t been to Australia on the show yet. Or New Zealand. I haven’t been to Shanghai, I haven’t been to Greece in my life. I’ve never been to Turkey. I haven’t been to San Sebastian, which is like the food capital of the world. There are still so many places. I’ve never been to Prague — I’d love to see it. I haven’t been to Amsterdam on the show yet. It’s a big world. Somebody’s gotta eat it.

Q: Who is your dream dinner guest that you’d like to have on the show?
A: Oh, I’d love Mel Brooks. I’d love Bruce Springsteen. I’m so jealous that Larry David got Bruce Springsteen to do his show.

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Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal in episode 701 of Somebody Feed Phil. Photo by Netflix

Q: You have a companion book for the show called Somebody Feed Phil the Book. What is something that you’re especially proud of including in that?
A: Well, that book is a great recipe book and that has nothing to do with me. Yes, my stories are in there, and how I feel about the places that we feature in the book. But these are 60 of the most requested recipes from the first four years of the show and there’s another book coming out in a year or so, a second one and I’m so excited about it. People love this place in Venice that makes a breaded pork cutlet that they finish with white wine vinegar. That’s it. It’s so simple. They fry this pork cutlet, they dump the oil out and then they finish it in this white wine vinegar. And it sounds simple, but the flavours are so complex and so delicious. It’s one of my favorite things in the world and it’s our most requested recipe.

Q: What are some of your other favourite cookbooks or food books that you would recommend for beginners?
A: The Mark Bittman books — How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything: The Basics, How To Cook Everything Fast — is all about cooking. It makes it very simple. Now, I have to confess, I’m not a cook. I inherited this talent from my parents. They were great people, not great chefs. But I love restaurants and chefs so much. They like me because I love them. People say to me, “You don’t cook, and you have this food and travel show.” Yeah, but I meet a lot of great chefs around the world. They can’t write a sitcom. So we all contribute in our way.

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Q: Do you have any favourite travel books — perhaps something that helps you pick the next location?
A: Now it’s the internet. Before I go anywhere, I will Google the best places to eat in Toronto. And you never go by just one recommendation. You have to really verify by seeing it pop up on a lot of lists. [We recommend Toronto Restaurant Guide 2023.]

Q: What are some of your must-have items or essentials that you pack on every trip?
A: You know what the number one thing is, for me, the noise-cancelling headphones for the plane. And also I take smaller noise-cancelling ones that I can walk around the city. My favourite thing to do is walk in a new place or any place really, and listen to my music or a podcast or something while I see the sights. I love it.

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