‘I’ll Have What Phil’s Having’ Is Moved to Tears—by Gelato in Florence


Would you like seconds on that muddy-tasting pond loach? Phil Rosenthal, creator of the classic sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, stars in the new PBS food and travel show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, which takes the funny man to Paris, Barcelona, Hong Kong and other culinary capitals to mix with the locals and sample their favorite dishes. Sometimes these eats are downright disturbing. Sometimes they have Rosenthal reaching Meg Ryan levels of ecstasy. Warning: He cries a lot.

Look at you on Public Broadcasting!
Hey, they started with Julia Child, so I’m at the very birthplace of food TV. I’m really proud to be there. It’s the right audience for me. I’m not young. I’m not cool like Anthony Bourdain. Actually, I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain…if he was afraid of everything.

But in your Tokyo episode, you eat a shrimp that’s still moving. Doesn’t that count for bravery? Sometimes I’m just stupid. In Hong Kong I swallowed a 100-year-old egg—whole. Later I found out you’re only supposed to take a tiny slice of the rare delicacy because the taste is so awful. Then there was the barbecued eel skull in Tokyo. That I ate by accident. I’m still picking the bones out of my teeth. But you live and learn. Well, hopefully you live.

You eat a ramen dish that’s so infernally spicy you start weeping and describe it as “a wave of punishment.” Why do this to yourself?
Because it was spectacular! I couldn’t stop. The cream gelato in Florence had me in tears for an entirely different reason. It was so amazing, it was like having Mozart play a song just for you. I love nothing more than experiencing other cultures and meeting the people. It’s the most emotional, mind-expanding, life-changing thing. I want people to watch this show and think, “Hey, if a putz like Phil can do it, so can I!”

You claim you’re obsessed with food because you were raised by a mother whose cooking had no flavor.
But you’re Jewish! How is that even possible? Trust me, my mother is not thrilled with me advertising this. I love her, and she is fantastic in every other way, but it’s true: She’s horrible in the kitchen. Look, there’s no shame in not being able to cook. I can’t cook, either. I’m here to enjoy. I don’t need to do what the great chefs of the world can do. And you know what? I don’t need them writing sitcoms.

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Series premiere, Monday, Sept. 28 , 10/9c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)