Oct 30, 2022
By Mark Moody
Photography by Netflix
Given the success of Phil Rosenthal’s foodie travelog, which has now spawned a cookbook and live tour, Somebody Feed Phil’s sixth season is not likely to be its last. It does, however, deal with endings as the show has unfortunately had to do several times since its 2018 debut. Rosenthal’s parents were always featured in each episode’s closing moments as their son checked in from wherever that show’s journey had taken him. His mother, Helen, passed away in 2018 and his father, Max, who soldiered on alone for many episodes, left us in 2021. Not much was covered on his passing in the episodes at the time, but all is resolved here with a touching tribute show simply named “Helen & Max.” Any of us would have done well to have lived their lives and left such a legacy.
But all is not so dour over the course of Season 6’s five traditionally structured episodes. In fact, if you know the show or Rosenthal in the least, nothing is dour at all. If you like your food themed show hosts to be brooding, mercurial, or excitedly in your face, Somebody Feed Phil will not be your cup of tea. The consummate nice guy, who also happens to be animatedly goofy, may not be for everyone. But if you’ve been along for the journey so far, Rosenthal’s treks to Austin, Philadelphia, Nashville, Chile and Croatia find him with many culinary inspirations to absorb. And absorb them he does. The episodes are equally feelgood and highlight food-centric charities along with the standard coverage of street food vendors up to world class fine dining spots in each locale. The Philadelphia and Chile segments particularly shine, with the latter being one of the best to date in the series.
As has been the case in most episodes, there is a gathering of everyone Rosenthal meets along the way in each location and the Chilean version of that gels particularly well. Whether it’s the Chilean culture or gorgeous setting in the Andes, the group gathered seem to truly click and enjoy each other’s company. If you’ve seen prior episodes, the final dinner is on par with Rosenthal’s Venice and Tel Aviv trips. Clearly, the in-country turmoil that Chileans have dealt with over the past several years has not dampened their spirits and perhaps spurred them higher. Though Philadelphians have maybe not dealt with such constitutional matters for a couple of hundred years, the city’s culture comes shining through on that episode as well. From a simple cheesesteak to highlighting a true municipal treasure like Isiah Zagar and his Magic Gardens installation, the city’s diversity shows well. And the straightforward but delicious looking cuisine whipped up in chef Shola Olunloyo’s backyard may rival anything else for the season.
The episodes in Austin, Nashville, and Croatia (which is apparently home to some other series involving dragons) are equally charming, but don’t rank with the others or the “Helen & Max” special. Thankfully, Austin ticks off plenty of Mexican and barbecue spots or there would be much to gripe about there. Rosenthal’s wife, Monica, and his kids are in tow to his first ever trip to Nashville. The city’s world famous hot chicken is tackled at all heat levels (having only personally sampled the “mild” at Bolton’s this challenge at Prince’s had to have set back filming a few days). If you are aware of the Zoom-in jokes in honor of Max’s passing in Season 5, that segment is back but decidedly scraping the bottom of the barrel. Ray Romano’s joke manages to be crass, clever and genuinely funny at the same time, but appearances by PeeWee Herman creator Paul Reubens and what must have been one of the last on screen appearances by Gilbert Gottfried are more than a bit awkward and go on for too long.
The locations visited, people met along the way, and cuisine sampled have always been the stars of Somebody Feed Phil and in that regard Season 6 does what the show has always done best just fine. There’s also enough of a library of episodes at this juncture that any traveler heading to a Somebody Feed Phil alumni city would do well to check them out in advance. There are plenty of other spots on the globe that Rosenthal could still venture forth to, so here’s to hoping that transpires. (www.netflix.com/somebody_feed_phil)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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