Phil Rosenthal is best known as the creator and writer of Everybody Loves Raymond. But, you’ll soon get to know him as a man whose world has been opened up through food. And, you’ll be inspired as you travel along with Phil around the world to uncover the culinary traditions that both make our cultures unique and tie us close together in his new public television series, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, premiering Sept. 28 on Wisconsin Public Television.
In advance of the series, we caught up with him to ask him about the new show. We featured a few of his comments in the September issue of Airwaves, WPT’s member magazine, that is hitting mailboxes soon.
Read the full conversation below, and then watch an exclusive preview of the new series!
You grew up in Queens, N.Y., just outside of what a lot of us would consider a dining mecca of New York City. What were your early culinary experiences?
If you don’t have a lot of money, you eat at home like everybody else. It’s luck of the draw if you’re mom or dad are a good cook or not. Neither of them were very good in my taste. There were flavors I never experienced growing up until I left home – like, I never had garlic. I didn’t know what that was. When I finally did, it was like this magical thing.
I’ll Have What Phil’s Having started with a different name, didn’t it?
When I told my brother that I was actually getting to do a show like this, he said, “That’s very interesting. What are you going to call the show, “Phil’s a Lucky Bastard?” I loved that, because I actually feel that way. But, this is PBS, so we couldn’t actually call it that.
How does this show reflect your full circle experience of coming from Queens to now experiencing the entire world through food?
All I’m trying to do is get people off the couch, to come along and travel. To me there is nothing more mind-expanding that people can do in life than travel, and for me food and laughs are the way in. It’s how we connect with each other.
As someone who has made a living as a comedy writer, you’re now starring in a food show. Was that a scary proposition?
Not at all. It’s actually an extension of who I am, an extension of what I’ve always done. As a writer – writing Everybody Loves Raymond – I was trying to connect with the audience. Now, it is the same kind of connection in a different way. The sense of humor is the same, the personality is the same. Just as if you look at Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, that show is an extension of what we know of him as a writer from Seinfeld. This show is an extension of me, from the guy you know from behind Raymond.
I loved every moment of everything you see, because everything – and every place – was new. There’s a wonderful expression from Albert Einstein – You can live life as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle. That’s such a wonderful philosophy of life.
Are your famous friends completely jealous of your impending PBS stardom?
Every single person I speak to, the number one comment I get, from famous or not famous, is “Do you need someone to carry your bags?” I admit, this is a scam I have pulled. Don’t tell PBS, but I’d have paid them to do it. Hopefully we will entertain people and motivate them to think about travelling. And that can be to a new place overseas or right in your own town.
We’d welcome you to join us in Wisconsin for a lutefisk dinner in a future episode.
(After learning what lutefisk is) You make it sound so appetizing. There might be one or two other places on our list before I get to that. (Laughing.)