Phil Rosenthal has a simple request for anyone planning their next vacation or dinner reservation: Spend less time reading reviews, making “best of” lists, or following influencers — and more time just winging it.

“Don’t over-plan it,” he tells Eater. “Obviously it’s fun to read about or look forward to something like a dinner. But leave some room in the schedule, as we do, for spontaneity.”

That’s also the secret ingredient to Somebody Feed Phil, his hit Netflix travel documentary series that dedicates an entire episode to D.C. dining in its new Season 7. It’s also how he prefers to eat or wander the world, especially when a production schedule doesn’t go according to plan.

“It happens all the time,” he says. “I’m on a trip, like our Kyoto episode, and I don’t have time to get to the place, because of a trip delay, and I’m starving. So, we say, ‘Let’s just go eat here and try these dumplings.’ And, what happens? It was the meal of a life!”

That’s maybe what sets Rosenthal apart from, say, Anthony Bourdain, Rick Steves, or Guy Fieri. He isn’t afraid to flip the script or bring a stranger from the street into an episode, only to see what happens next. That sitcom-style mentality should come as no surprise, as Rosenthal created and produced ’90s show Everybody Loves Raymond.

Impulsive fun is also how you might describe his latest endeavor. “An Evening With Phil Rosenthal” 25-city tour across America kicks off next week in New York and stops in D.C. on Wednesday, April 17 at the Warner Theatre.

Phil Rosenthal is about to embark on a nationwide tour.

“People ask me all the time: ‘What is this live show about, and what do you actually do?’” He jokes in reply: “I go on stage and eat a sandwich…”

Sandwich humor aside, the theater experience itself is rooted in hilarious randomness. “This tour is the most fun and delivers so many laughs. I do this because I love it,” Rosenthal says.

It starts with a conversation hosted by one of his many famous friends (and he won’t say who that special guest will be in D.C.). Then he typically chats about food and travel before opening to questions from the audience.

“I get all kinds of questions, like real ethical questions as if I’m a Rabbi,” he laughs. “I have very strong opinions. Yes! I can help you with your relationship. Yes! I can help you with your kids or parents. Why? Because I’ve lived it.”

What the audience may not realize is that Rosenthal doesn’t receive a paycheck for these performances, either on stage or for television. He donates it to charitable organizations also featured prominently on the show.

Routinely, Phil’s friends and family join him in his pursuit of his next meal around the world. It’s a theme that started with his parents, and carries on today with Zoom calls from his big-time pals in Hollywood. It’s “a postcard made for television,” to share where he traveled, what he ate, or something he learned, but also a chance for the guest to crack a punny joke.

He’s also up for whatever even when the camera’s not rolling. During this Eater interview, he reveals he was heading to LA’s popular Anajak that night to check out its Taco Tuesday with Thai food.

“I love mash-ups like this, but tonight is extra special because my friend, chef Nancy Silverton, is coming and collaborating,” says Rosenthal. He happens to be opening an LA diner with Silverton this summer.

“My whole family is going, 10 of us,” he says. “That’s my favorite thing in life.”

Rosenthal just spent lots of time with his daughter (and actress) Lily Rosenthal, embarking on a nationwide tour for their new children’s book Just Try It!

“The book is about a dad, who eats everything, and his little girl who won’t eat anything,” Rosenthal says. “But how many grown-ups do we know that won’t try new things? The theme of this book is to have an open mind no matter who you are.”

His willingness to try anything and connect with anyone — what he calls his “world family” — energizes him to film each season of Somebody Feed Phil.

“The more I travel, the more I realize the more interconnected we are. If someone is suffering, it has a chain effect on everyone, everywhere. Kindness also has ripple effects, and the diversity of people, I think, makes the world more entertaining, delicious and exciting,” he says.

Rosenthal’s media friends Jeffrey Goldberg (editor of the Atlantic Magazine) and CNN host Jake Tapper join him at Rasika.
Courtesy of Netflix

Anju chefs Danny Lee and Angel Barreto hosted Top Chef star Kwame Onwuachi and Rosenthal in D.C.’s episode.
Courtesy of Netflix

And unlike most food shows on TV, his on-camera meals at restaurants are largely unscripted. In the D.C. episode, Phil’s friends on film included James Beard Award-winning chef Kwame Onwuachi, who’s making an anticipated return to D.C.’s dining scene soon. And he took a local food tour of Georgetown led by D.C. food and travel writer Nevin Martell. The only D.C. meal pre-planned from start-to-finish was the bipartisan lunch hosted between Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick at Maketto on H Street.

“Besides eating, and given the state of the world, I wanted a Republican and Democrat to sit down and have lunch with me. That took months to do,” Rosenthal admits. “We went through lists of people until we finally found two great guys … That meal — the food — is the great connector. Unless we get together how can we build understanding?”

His suggestion for solving Beltway gridlock and partisan divides is simple. Make the buffet food in the House and Senate cafeterias taste better.

“What if they all had a good meal? What if we just fed them? It takes division and anger away. Good food may not be the answer to everything, but it couldn’t hurt to help bring people together.”

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