How I'm Living Now: Phil Rosenthal, Writer and Eater

Somebody Feed Phil Still 1 - Phil Rosenthal - Netflix publicity_H 2020
Courtesy of Netflix

The 'Somebody Feed Phil' star has advice for anybody still nervous about ordering takeout during the pandemic.

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense of how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.

Phil Rosenthal, whose long-gestating third season of his Netflix travelog (Somebody Feed Phil) arrives on the streamer May 29, is spending his lockdown making video shorts to mock Donald Trump, house-training a new puppy and exhaustively deliberating his nightly takeout options. When the famously famished Everybody Loves Raymond creator recently spoke with THR, he was very keen to talk about food. Empathetic about the struggles of local restaurants and those in their employ, he also offered some advice to anyone still leery about ordering in during a pandemic. (Hint: it involves a lot of hand-washing.)

So, who's feeding Phil these days?

The highlight of my day is figuring out where I'm going to order dinner from in Los Angeles. As horrible as everything is, it's the golden age of takeout. Restaurants are not splitting their focus between serving customers in-store and delivery and takeout. Takeout has their full attention. Some of the meals have been absolutely spectacular, way beyond what you expect from delivery. So that is the bright spot in the day for my family and me.

And you're supporting local businesses.

I'd say that, equal to my joy from eating, is supporting them. They're threatened — their lives and livelihoods are threatened. The government is giving money to the big chains and corporations instead of the restaurants where our social lives are. If we don't support these places, they're not going to be there when this is over. I don't want to live in the world without them.

The number of Americans who depend on restaurants for their livelihood is wild.

Eleven million people in America work in the restaurant industry — and then when you start figuring in the farmers, the cheese makers, the wine people, all the other industries that support the restaurants, you're talking about a much bigger number. We don't want to be left with a world with only restaurants for guys on expense accounts. Just like there's no middle class anymore, there'll be no middle class of restaurants.

What's given you reason to be optimistic?

I don't know if you saw 60 Minutes, but they did a piece on José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen. He had this brilliant idea to put restaurants to work feeding needy people and the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines. They're supporting the restaurants, and they're doing this work that needs to be done. My wife and I are matching every donation made to the World Central Kitchen.

That's great. Any restaurants in particular you want to shout out?

You just have to look in your neighborhood and pick the places that you want to be around when this is over. The diner down the street, the little old Italian place that you love. We ordered from Bestia the other night, and it was very special. My son and his girlfriend said it was one of the best meals they've ever had anywhere — and we were sitting at our kitchen table.

What would you say to calm people still skittish about takeout or delivery?

There's no evidence of the virus being transmitted through food. When the delivery comes, or when you pick it up from the restaurant, you're wearing a mask, they're wearing a mask, you're wearing gloves, they're wearing gloves. There's hand sanitizer at every place, and there's a respectful distance between each customer waiting. At home, we leave the bags and outer packaging outside. We bring the food in, we wash our hands, we unpack that food into our bowls, we wash our hands, we throw the other stuff away, we wash our hands and then we eat. Later we wash our hands again.

A reasonable amount of hand-washing.

All I can say is I've been doing it for the past month, almost every night. I can't speak for everyone's experience, but I can tell you that my family and I are healthy so far.

Outside of meal planning, what's your new new routine?

I'm working on a companion book for the show and trying to think of ways that we can publicize the show coming back — because so many of the external ways have been taken away. We worked on these episodes for years, and I think people will like them because we go to some wonderful locations. I want to make sure that people know about the show. I'm working on fun little videos and doing everything I can to make sure we have the right government in place to protects us. Oh, and the day the lockdown started, we adopted a puppy.

I've seen him on your Twitter feed.

Ninety percent of my day is making sure he doesn't pee inside. I've been something of a failure, but he is adorable. His name is Murray. He's quite a handful, but when else would you ever have this opportunity to bond and train a puppy? A puppy is the ultimate distraction. And I would tell that to anybody thinking of rescuing an animal right now.

Have you participated in any of these high-profile Zoom parties?

I was invited to something that had a lot of entertainment people on it, but it just didn't work for me. I don't need my entertainment there. I've been very impressed though with some of the specials. That Seder was fantastic. I thought that was brilliantly done. I said it was the best piece of Judaica ever made.