An array of amari at New York’s Amor y Amargo [Photographs: Vicky Wasik] The most exciting thing about amari can often also be the most frustrating—the style’s incredible range and diversity makes it nearly impossible to define. Though the word amaro translates literally to “bitter,” […]
Month: February 2018
[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] I was raised by a master of culinary sleight of hand. When I’d come home from school with envious tales of the golden Tater Tots the other kids were having for lunch, my mother bamboozled me into believing steamed taro was exactly […]
Let’s be clear: Usually, we don’t recommend buying cookware sets. When you pay a lot of money for a set, you often end up overspending for pieces you don’t need and under-spending on pieces that are essential. So, as a general rule, buy your cookware […]
Take a walk through a professional kitchen, and you’ll notice that most of the stuff in there is larger than anything you have at home. Each oven can hold 10 chickens at once, the stockpots are spacious enough to bathe in, and the refrigerators are entire rooms. Whatever pride you may have about your newly acquired KitchenAid stand mixer will shrivel as soon as you spot the Hobart, a super-sized version that sits on the floor and has a gate around the mixing bowl to prevent people from falling in. If you think a little fat can impede a dough’s gluten development, just imagine what an entire human arm would do.
Baking sheets in pro kitchens are bigger, too, with full-size ones measuring 18 by 26 inches, twice the size of the 18- by 13-inch trays we use at home. That’s right: Your baking sheet is merely a half-sheet pan. Half sheets are about the only size you’ll find in most home kitchens (unless, of course, you’re in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, in which case you’ll find an assortment of irregular, off-brand ones, banged-up and flimsy, that you inexplicably continue to use even after I’ve bought you a set of brand-new heavy-duty half sheets for Christmas).
Anyway, that leads me to the next funny thing about professional kitchens—while most of the stuff you encounter there will be oversize, you’ll also find a ready supply of surprisingly tiny baking sheets. First, there are the quarter-sheet pans, which are, as you may have guessed, half the size of half sheets. Then there are the truly Lilliputian eighth sheets, half the size yet again. Those smallest ones measure a mere six and a half by nine and a half inches. For whatever reason, these smaller sheet pans rarely make their way into home kitchens. It’s bizarre, because, as handy as they are in commercial kitchens, they’re even more useful at home, where we routinely cook smaller portions of food.
Using a data set limited strictly to myself, I’ve come up with my Theorem of Domestic Sheet Pan Utility, which states that home usage of a sheet pan is inversely proportional to its size—the smaller a sheet pan gets, the more you’ll use it. This is hard science here, so don’t try arguing with me.
Let’s look at real-world examples. Just as one should try to select an appropriately sized pot or pan when cooking, one should also try to pick the right size sheet pan for any given task. Cook a single burger patty in a 12-inch skillet, and all you’ll gain is a bigger area of burnt-on crud to deal with later. So it is with sheet pans. If I’m roasting a large serving of broccoli or cauliflower, or cooking a spatchcocked chicken, a half sheet makes the most sense. But as my ingredient volume goes down, so does my sheet pan size. Roasting a four-bone rack of pork? A quarter sheet can work well for that. Toasting some grains or nuts, or reheating a leftover chicken leg from yesterday’s dinner? An eighth-sheet pan will do you right. A sheet pan that’s too large for the task simply provides extra space for juices to dry out and burn, and takes up more countertop and oven space than is required.
These smaller sheet pan sizes also tend to be more useful for organizing your mise en place, since they can hold a variety of ingredients in discrete groups without overtaking limited counter space. Plus, you can steal a page from the surgeon’s handbook, using smaller sheet trays to hold tools like paring knives, vegetable peelers, bench scrapers, and even tweezers, if that’s your thing. What could be more fun than extending your hand, saying, “Scraper, please,” and having a kitchen helper take it from the tray and place it on your expectant palm? If your answer is “many things,” I guess your life is more exciting than mine.
Similar to small sheet trays, and just as useful, are sizzle platters: round aluminum dishes used for tossing a portion or two of vegetables or proteins into the oven. Look at the line in many restaurant kitchens, and you’ll see a stack of them at nearly every station. Sizzle platters are often what steakhouses use for setting their steaks under high-powered broilers; they frequently come as sets with wooden serving trays, so they can go straight to the table from the steakhouse kitchen. (If you keep an eye out online for “AC Fabricators, Gardena, CA,” you can often pick up some really great vintage sizzle platter sets.)
Having a ready stack of eighth sheets and sizzle platters in my kitchen is a godsend for quick and easy meal prep. I can’t tell you the number of nights when I’ll grab one or the other, cover it with a small sheet of aluminum foil for easier cleanup later, and set a couple pieces of fish on it. Then I’ll toss it under the broiler until the fish is browned on top and just cooked through. It’s quicker, it’s cleaner, and it’s way less cumbersome. Bigger, clearly, isn’t always better.
[Photographs: Vicky Wasik. Videos: Serious Eats Video] Peek into the Serious Eats pantry, and you’ll see plenty of cans. There’s no shame in using them. While tomato season is justifiably exciting, it’s also fleeting—the rest of the year, you’ll need a can opener to make […]
[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Mix, knead, rise, shape, rise again, bake, rest—the long list of steps required by some baking projects can seem unapproachable to someone without a lot of experience. But don’t let that intimidate you, because they often don’t take as much effort as […]
My friend Phil Rosenthal, the creator and host of the new Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil, is as much fun to talk to as he is to eat with. When I asked him how the show ended up on Netflix, he replied, “The way I sold the show…I said, ‘I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything….I mean, I’m the guy watching him, not really wanting to go to Borneo and have a tattoo pounded into my chest with nails.'”
When I sit down with Phil no subject is off limits. We revisited (admittedly at my behest) the moment in 2006 when I asked him to invest in Serious Eats. I just thought that the food-obsessed creator of Everybody Loves Raymond would leap at the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. “By the way,” he said, laughing, “my business manager told me not to give you money then. I was ready. I was like, ‘This sounds good.’ But he said, ‘No, no, no, no, don’t, don’t.'” That’s four “nos” and two “don’ts” for those of you counting at home.
If you listen, you’ll find that the Phil Rosenthal you hear on Special Sauce is the same guy you see on Somebody Feed Phil. He’s funny—really funny—smart, and generously spirited (he always picks up the check, on the show and in real life). And, oh yeah, Phil’s also a great storyteller who has somehow managed to maintain an optimistic but realistic outlook on life. Why? Because as his friend Ed. Weinberger, the legendary sitcom director and creator, told him when he was shooting the Everybody Loves Raymond pilot, “Phil, you might as well make the show you want to make because at the end, they’re going to cancel you anyway.” As Phil pointed out, “Isn’t that a great philosophy of life? We all get cancelled one day. Live your life.”
So enliven your life, Serious Eaters, by listening to Part 1 of the Special Sauce interview with Phil Rosenthal. You’ll be laughing in the first minute. (And for those of you who prefer their interviews in written form, we’ve included an edited transcript of the conversation below.)
You Could Be on Special Sauce
Want to chat with me and our unbelievably talented recipe developers? We’re accepting questions for Special Sauce call-in episodes now. Do you have a recurring argument with your spouse over the best way to maintain a cast iron skillet? Have you been working on your mac and cheese recipe for the past five years, but can’t quite get it right? Does your brother-in-law make the worst lasagna, and you want to figure out how to give him tips? We want to get to know you and solve all your food-related problems. Send us the whole story at [email protected].
Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce, a Serious Eats podcast about food and life. Every week on Special Sauce we talk to some of the leading lights of American culture, food folks and non food folks alike.
Phil Rosenthal: The way I sold the show, my show, I said, “I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything.”
EL: Today it is indeed an honor and a pleasure to welcome back producer, comedy writer, television host, Phil Rosenthal. Many people know Phil as the co-creator of the long running, multiple Emmy Award-winning sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond. Phil was also the creator and host of PBS’s James Beard Award-winning food and travel show, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. And now Phil is back with a moving and hilarious new food and travel show, Somebody Feed Phil. The first six episodes are streaming as we speak on Netflix. Welcome back to Special Sauce, my dear friend and fellow serious eater, Phil Rosenthal.
EL: It’s so good to have you. We had some fantastic pizza the other night. Did we not?
PR: Come on. We love Razza’s. And I guess, is it fair to tell the people maybe they’ll see some of that someday?
EL: Yeah. Sure.
PR: Yeah. All right.
EL: I mean, it’s up to you for what you can reveal.
PR: Yeah. All right. That’s all I’m revealing. But it’s no great reveal that Razza’s is some of the best pizza on the planet.
EL: Yeah. It’s in Jersey City. His original pizzeria in Maplewood, Arturo’s.
EL: He sold a few years ago, and then bought and opened Razza.
PR: This Dan Richer is just a genius.
EL: He really is.
PR: I mean, every detail of that place, just bread and butter. I’d go for the bread and butter.
PR: Right? And then here’s a platter of ham with fresh mozzarella, Buffalo mozzarella that when you …
EL: It’s from New Jersey.
PR: From Jersey. Then when you push on this ball of mozzarella, it just squirts all this milk out all over the plate. It is so delicious and these wild pies that have hazelnut and honey and the honey has a provenance, right? They’re from, is it Rutgers University?
EL: Yeah, yeah. Everything, so the hazelnuts were grown at Rutgers.
PR: Oh, that’s from the, yeah.
EL: Who knew they grew anything but football players?
PR: Yes right, I’m a big hazelnut fan. Like, way more than football fan.
EL: Yeah. And the hazelnuts tasted sort of meaty. But he roasted them. It was awesome.
PR: It is awesome.
EL: I do want to get right into Somebody Feed Phil, which I think in its own quiet way is a groundbreaking show.
EL: I do, with its blend of food and travel and comedy, and of course it’s all filtered through your point of view. I mean it’s very, I can’t imagine anyone else filling the role that you fill on the show.
PR: Oh well, thanks. I mean, I’m certainly not the first guy to have this type of show, right?
EL: No, no that’s [inaudible 00:03:11]
PR: But I guess, if you’re going to do it, you may as well bring yourself to it.
PR: You could make a generic version of the show.
EL: Right, of which there are hundreds of generic food and travel shows.
PR: You know what feels generic when you watch a lot of them? Is the editing.
PR: Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. God forbid someone, we should linger for too long? What if somebody turns the channel? Right? So now on Netflix, you don’t have to worry.
EL: Right. That must have been liberating.
PR: By the way, not to digress, but look at Letterman’s new show on there.
PR: Like did you watch?
EL: Oh, I saw a little bit of the interview with Obama.
PR: I mean, first of all, it’s so beautiful to see him back.
PR: Letterman. But to see him unconstrained, you don’t even realize how constrained he was by the commercial network requirements.
EL: Mm-hmm, interesting.
PR: You only have four minutes with this guest before you cut to commercial. That shapes the whole show.
EL: You’re right. And by the same token, I think you’re being on Netflix this time around does the same thing for you. It’s Phil Rosenthal unchained. Because what’s funny is-
PR: Does anyone really want that?
EL: Having watched all six episodes of this and the last series and many episodes of Everyone Loves Raymond. Was it Everybody Loves Raymond? I always get it wrong.
PR: Everybody. Everybody Loves Raymond.
EL: Just like, this is somebody.
PR: Right. So people are already saying someone.
EL: Right. Right.
PR: It’s funny that we confuse everybody, everyone, somebody, someone, that’s just a thing.
EL: Right. And it’s Everybody Loves Raymond is in a zillion countries. What do they say in Russia?
PR: I think it was going to be Everybody Loves [inaudible 00:05:02]. But I think they changed the name once it actually got on the air to the Veronins.
EL: The Veronins?
PR: The Veronins recently became the longest-running adaptation of an American television show in the history of the world.
EL: The Veronins.
PR: Veronins. So you could still see it, I think there’s even a spinoff, there’s a thing. Exporting Raymond is also on Netflix, if you want to see the genesis of, yeah.
EL: That’s the, Exporting Raymond is the documentary that, to me, was a crime that more people didn’t see, because it was-
PR: They’ve seen it now.
EL: Good, it’s so beautif-
PR: It’s on Netflix, I’m so happy.
EL: Yeah, it’s so beautifully realized and so fascinating.
PR: Yeah. They tried to release it in the theaters. It was disaster.
PR: Because who wants to go see a documentary about a guy they never heard of before?
EL: Exactly. But it is true that this show seems so personal to me, not only in the way it’s shot, and knowing how much of it, a lengthy adventure it was to get it made the way you want it made.
PR: Yeah, they don’t hand these things out. And they certainly don’t hand them out and let you do them any way you want to do them.
PR: So, and I would tell to you it took ten years?
EL: Ten years?
PR: Yeah, of it being in the back of my head. Maybe we talked about this last time, but quickly, I’ll just for you newbies out there, the genesis of this was an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.
PR: When we took Ray, I asked him on a hiatus.
EL: This is Ray Romano.
PR: Yeah. “What are you doing to do for your vacation?” “I go to the Jersey Shore.” And I said, “This nice. You ever been to Europe?” He goes, “No.” I said, “Why not?” He goes, “I’m not really interested in other cultures.” Even his own, Italian. He didn’t, so I go, “Well, we got to do that show.” We got to do that show where we take him to Italy as him, and we send him back as me, someone who’s excited about going to Italy. Or traveling in general.
PR: And eating over there. And everything that’s beautiful that we know about going. Right? Took me a few years to get that done-
PR: Because that costs money to bring your whole crew. And so then-
EL: Yeah exactly. And that would up the budget on that episode too.
PR: Well, absolutely. So, but by year I guess, five-
EL: Right, when you’d won a zillion Emmys.
PR: We were happy to, they’re happy to do what we like.
PR: So we do it. Well, don’t you know, the very arc of the character that I wrote, of him getting woke over there, I saw it happen to the person. I saw it happen to Ray himself.
PR: And that was so powerful to me, that I realized what if I could do this for other people? And from that moment, I’m going to say that’s the year 2000, I’ve wanted to do this show. Raymond ended five years later. So, ten years from then, I’ve been pursuing other things, trying to get other sitcoms on the air, knocking my head against the Hollywood wall.
EL: Right. People think that, and it’s something that I remember it was so interesting to talk to you when we first got to know each other.
EL: Because I figured, oh, somebody has a hit television show where everybody’s done well. Everybody on the show, the creators of the show, the network. So, that must pave the way to other things.
PR: It opens the door, certainly. But then you got to stay in that room.
PR: And they got to want you in that room. And they got to want what you do in that room.
PR: What I found was, they wanted my name on things-
PR: Being the guy from that other thing, but they didn’t really want that thing anymore.
PR: That the business had changed in my nine years on Raymond into something else. And to be honest, I don’t know if Raymond would have gotten on the air the year we went off the air.
EL: Right. Sure.
PR: And by the way, we had trouble getting on the air the year we got on the air.
EL: Right. And that’s true no matter what medium-
EL: Because it’s the same thing with Serious Eats.
EL: And we should say that Phil and I got to know each other when our mutual friend Nancy Silverton, a great restaurateur, chef and baker in Los Angeles introduced us, and I took Phil and his fantastic wife Monica for a tour of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
PR: Another great reason to love Nancy.
EL: And then, of course, I asked Phil to invest in Serious Eats when, this was 2006.
EL: When nobody was saying, “Yes.” When it was so difficult. But the reason I bring it up was not that, is because I say to people eleven years later-
EL: If I wanted to launch Serious Eats right now-
EL: The climate has changed so dramatically in digital media that nobody would give me money now. Even though Serious Eats is seen as this great website with 10 million unique visitors a month.
PR: Yes. Well, by the way, my business manager told me not to give you money then.
PR: I was ready. I was like, “This sounds good.” But he said, “No, no, no, no, no, don’t, don’t.” And I got to listen to him because I’m an idiot when it comes to financial things. I invest in restaurants, and I’ll fall in love with the restaurant and the chef, and I’m like, “Yes, we do it, we do it because I like to support the arts.” Right?
PR: That’s what I’m doing. But every decision is made by him.
PR: Has to be.
EL: No, I know.
PR: He has to protect me from myself.
EL: Yes, because you are a soft touch.
PR: I think I am.
EL: You are.
PR: Jonathan Gold calls me the investor of first resort. By the way, how stupid am I saying this on the radio? But I can also say, it’s not up to me.
EL: Yeah, sure.
PR: Business manager.
EL: But it is true that landscapes change in the media world. So, you’re saying that Raymond wouldn’t have gotten made when you went off the air.
PR: Yes. That’s true.
EL: Serious Eats wouldn’t be created in 2018.
PR: Right. Yeah.
EL: Something else, it would be an Instagram account or whatever it would be, but it would not be a website, I will tell you with 100% certainty.
PR: And that the way that Serious Eats is so personal to you, and it is, has your [inaudible 00:11:27] all over it, then your taste and your values, so it is with a television show that I would make. Right?
PR: And so, you might get offers to do something else, something you don’t like. Not doing it.
PR: I don’t care.
PR: I really don’t care about the money.
EL: And I’m also reminded of what you told me that Ed Weinberger, the famous sitcom director told you when you were having trouble making the pilot of Everybody Loves Raymond-
PR: That’s correct.
EL: In the way that you wanted to make it.
EL: And the studio involved kept giving you a hard time.
PR: Well, you get a lot of notes sometimes, yeah.
EL: Right. And Ed said to you, “You might as well make the show you want to do, because it’s going to get canceled eventually anyway.”
PR: Yeah, do the show you want to do because at the end, they’re going to cancel you anyway. And by the way, isn’t that a great philosophy of life?
PR: We all get canceled one day.
EL: Right, so-
PR: Live your life.
EL: So, talk to us about what the big idea behind the show-
EL: The new show, Somebody Feed Phil was.
PR: So, Anthony Bourdain has kicked open the door how many years ago?
PR: 18 years ago?
PR: Does this, all of a sudden, remember this is a food and travel show-
EL: Right, so-
PR: With a qualified person, a chef. And adventurer, even.
PR: I watch that show and I go, “He’s amazing. I’m never doing that.”
EL: Right. And with a strong point of view.
EL: And well-written, high production values, a very specific look and feel.
PR: Right. So, I thought I’m watching him and I’m loving that show, and I still love the show. You see that it’s evolved into him becoming a pretty great journalist actually. He’s very serious-minded. He also, his tastes run to the darker side of things.
PR: I think he would say that. And to that’s where he’s really, really interested and he wants to explore political issues. I think it’s the top show on CNN.
EL: Yeah, for sure.
PR: For good reason.
PR: But I also thought if I’m this guy, the way I sold the show, my show, I said, “I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything.” That’s really how I feel.
EL: A phobic Anthony Bourdain.
PR: Well, it’s the shape of the show, right? Food and travel show, but with a totally different character.
PR: Totally. I mean, I’m the guy watching him, not really wanting to go to Borneo and have a tattoo pounded into my chest with nails by tribesmen.
EL: Right? Why?
PR: What’s just me. And I’m not going to Beirut to get shot at. And I’m not flipping over in my dune buggy. I’d also, when I travel, I’d like a hotel. I’d like a bed. Right? Is breakfast included?
EL: You’re asking for a lot.
PR: This is what I’m asking for. And I had a feeling I wasn’t alone.
PR: And I also knew this: That the world would be better if we traveled more. That instead of just watching an adventurer from the couch, what if you got out there? And I thought if someone who sits on the couch saw somebody else from the couch getting up and doing it.
PR: If this putz can go outside.
PR: Maybe I can too.
PR: So, two-thirds of us don’t even have a passport in America.
PR: Wouldn’t it all be a little nicer? Would we be in the position we’re in today?
PR: If we all experienced a little of someone else’s experience and understood it a little bit, just a little bit?
EL: Because it comes out of your soul, it does have this pro-social, political, with a small P, bent.
PR: It was never intended to be political.
PR: Never. But suddenly, in today’s climate, wha-, the embracing of other people and other culture is political?
PR: I’m just trying to be a person.
EL: Right. You’re trying to be a good human being.
PR: Please. Please.
EL: The bar is not set that high for television hosts.
PR: Yes. Yes, you’re right. It’s the bare minimum. “Hello, how are you? Oh, what’s this food? Oh, I’ll taste it.” That’s such a political statement?
EL: I mean, that’s what makes the show special. And I love Tony’s show, but he’s the outlaw with a heart of goal.
PR: Yes. And not the in-law.
EL: And you’re the brother-in-law with a heart of gold.
PR: That’s right.
EL: But I think, there is a difference. And there’s also other kinds of travel shows now too, that you must have been aware of when you were thinking about this show, because Andrew Zimmern does Bizarre Foods.
PR: Love him. I’m not eating that.
EL: Right. And you’re not eating that, right.
PR: I mean, [inaudible 00:16:32] only eating it, but almost by accident. Yeah.
EL: And there’s Guy Fieri, but you’re not dying your hair.
PR: He’s, listen, he does public service too.
PR: That’s a different show. It has appeal and it’s probably opening minds to other stuff all around the country. And God bless him. I heard that when he visits a place, the business shoots up, and it’s wonderful for them.
PR: And good for him.
EL: Tell us about what happens in a new show, like what the format is, how you developed it, take us through the nuts and bolts of shooting an episode.
PR: Well, as I said, I had thought about this and tried to get it going in addition to all my other things that I was working on. This was always like in the back, and American Express came to me, I think, did I tell you about this?
EL: Yeah. Yeah, you went to London with Thomas Keller.
PR: Exactly. I didn’t know. I thought, “Oh, here we go. This will be a TV show.” But it wasn’t. It was, and they didn’t tell me this, they wanted it as a card member experience, meaning we would go there, shoot for a week. They would take the best of what they thought we captured on film, and kind of have a screening with a dinner for rich people. For card member, like Platinum card members, right?
EL: Right. Right up your alley.
PR: This is not what I wanted. And when I got there, I had, by the way, I had this vision that you see now of Somebody Feed Phil, that’s the vision I had. You’re going to go with Thomas Keller into, okay, if I have to bring a famous chef with me, may as well be Thomas Keller. He’s pretty freaking awesome. We’re friendly, and I love him. He’s a wonderful guy. But when I got there, there was some agenda. The producer booked us into 27 restaurants in seven days. All white table cloth.
EL: And all, my guess, is white table cloth.
EL: People hovering around to make sure your water glass is filled.
PR: Yes, when I travel, if I go for a week, let’s say, to London, I’m going to one of those places.
EL: Right. And even that is a stretch.
PR: Yeah. Yes. Well, I think we all like to do a splurge.
PR: One big splurge when we go. Maybe two if you have to.
EL: Right. Right.
PR: But, 27. You can’t even imagine. That’s more than breakfast, lunch and dinner in seven days.
PR: I was getting sick. I was like, when the food comes to the table, you want to go, “Oh boy,” not “Oh, no.”
PR: Like “I can’t eat any,” and so, I only tell you this story to tell you that you learn just as much from what not to do in life.
EL: Of course. That’s always true.
PR: As you do from what to do.
EL: You just hope you get the chance to do it again.
PR: Exactly right. And that was a very tough time for me. Because here was ostensibly my dream, “Okay Phil, here it is. You got it.”
PR: “Here’s your show.” Oh no. This is not right. So, by the time the next one came along, I knew exactly what the show should be.
PR: From the negative experience.
EL: So, what is the show like now? Like what happens?
PR: I have ZPZ, the production company. I was asked what production company do you want to use? Why not the people that do Anthony Bourdain’s show? So, they have contacts all over the world. They know how to make these shows. Right?
PR: My show isn’t going to be like his in terms of tone or even-
PR: Content in some cases. Some of the content, by the way, overlaps.
PR: So, sometimes you film something and I’ll hear that he did it 12 years ago.
PR: And I’m like, “Oh no.” And then I see the two side by side, completely different take.
PR: Even completely different dishes that we’re having.
PR: But even if it was the same dish, somehow it feels different just because of, you’re right, point of view. So, it’s really quite simple. The send me research of the places from their people on the ground in Lisbon. I’ll take my phone out and Google “best places to eat in Lisbon.” First of all, I’m looking for best places on Earth to go. Let me back up one step: Where do we decide where to go? Well, if my goal is to get you to travel, Mr. Sit in your chair and never move, and like only what you like, I’m going to start with Earth’s greatest hits. Because that, I think, will seduce you into coming. These places are popular for a reason.
PR: People like them.
PR: So let’s start there, and maybe that will be, if you see Paris, if you see Florence, if you see Barcelona. And you see how accessible it is, and you see lots of other Americans are going too, maybe that’ll be your first step. And I also knew that people who had been to those places never mind seeing it again. Especially if they’re going to go back and we can turn them on to the great stuff.
EL: I know. I just got back from Mexico City-
PR: Oh, how great. Yeah.
EL: After watching your episode, I was like, “I missed this, I missed this. This, this and this.”
PR: I miss it and I want to go back and get that.
EL: And I want to, I said to my wife, last night, it’s like, “Can we go back to Mexico City? I just watched the Mexico City episode.” So you do all this research.
PR: I want to go with you.
PR: That’d be fun.
PR: Because what better weekend from America. It’s only a few hours away.
EL: No. Yeah.
PR: You’re in another world, and it’s amazing. And you think you know Mexican food here.
PR: You don’t know how great it can be.
EL: So, you do the research.
EL: Keep going.
PR: Yeah. Do the research, and then we start whittling it down. And we’re saying, and also, they’re presenting me not just with cool places to eat, but things to do. Because we want to break it up a little bit. We want to highlight without hitting you over the head in an educational way.
EL: Right, you don’t want to be oppressively bite filled.
PR: Exactly right. And you don’t want to be, also, “Now we’re going to learn about the Mexican people.” That’s a different type of show also.
PR: But I want to get some of it in there because it adds to the appreciation of the place, the people, and the food.
PR: And I also want to be entertaining. That’s job one. Just like on Raymond, if you didn’t have jokes, you wouldn’t watch.
EL: Well, that’s the thing that-
PR: So, I’ve got to have food, I’ve got to have humor. But these things are just the way in to what the show’s really about, I think, which is connecting with the people.
EL: Yes, it is about, and it’s the people that make the show.
EL: And did you know ahead of time, which people were going to provide the sort of underpinnings of each episode? Like each family? Or did that just happen when you got there? Because we should explain that in every episode, Phil ends up, most episodes at least, having a meal with a family. Or was that just-
PR: That’s just something that can happen to you if you travel. It really can. We think, what are the odds of that? The odds are very good.
PR: That you’ll meet people and you might even be welcome in their home, or at least eat with them out somewhere. Or go to a barbecue. Get invited. You never know what is going to happen. But that’s the joy of it. And to me, I say this in the thing, food is the great connector. And laughs are the cement.
EL: I know, it’s funny, I wrote that line down and it was so Phil Rosenthal. It really is, because it’s your essence in six words or whatever it is. Or eight words. And it could be your epitaph.
PR: Okay. Do you know something I don’t know?
EL: Oh well, we can talk about that later [inaudible 00:24:34]
PR: I saw your card.
EL: But it is true, and the humanity and the humor are what come through in every frame.
PR: Thanks. It’s our most underrated value, I think, as human beings is our sense of humor. It’s how we choose our friends. I’ll go one step further. It’s who we marry, right? That the other stuff in marriage, it falls away a little bit as you get older. You know what I’m talking about.
PR: But as long as you make each other laugh once in a while.
EL: It’s true. The most memorable moments and the moments I treasure, are when we’re in bed and my wife cracks me up.
PR: Because that’s all that’s left for you to do in bed. But I think if the laughs go, that’s when the marriage goes. You see it in people.
PR: They’re not having fun anymore.
EL: So, the show if filled with your particular brand of humor. Talk about where your humor comes from.
PR: My parents.
EL: And yeah, your parents.
PR: Speaking of stars of the show.
EL: Right. We should say that is another element of the show.
EL: Are your parents are in every episode.
PR: My parents-
EL: First of all, do you pay them?
PR: Don’t start negotiating for them.
EL: All right.
PR: Because I know I’ll get taken to the cleaners by these people.
PR: I love their sense of humor. I can’t say it was always ice cream and rainbows in our house. We would yell and we would fight and I was a terrible child, and it was, but, on the other hand, laughs. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think every family of certain ethnicities have this. “Ra, ra, ra, ra, ra!” “A ha ha ha ha!”
PR: One second to the next. That’s the soundtrack of our lives, right? It just so happened accidentally that I Skyped with them from exporting Raymond, when I was over in Russia.
EL: Oh, you did? That’s where that-
PR: I was with a Russian family, and I couldn’t believe that the grandparents in Russia, first of all I was shocked and delighted to find that the Russian family that I’d been told was so different from the American family, was exactly the same.
PR: Except the grandparents knew how to work the computer.
PR: I said, “You know what Skype is?” “Yeah.” “You know what to do?” “Yeah.” “Come on, let’s try it.” Just like that. “Let’s try it.” Who are we calling? My parents.
PR: Okay? And they’re the same age. And then, that’s all filmed, and that’s in the movie. Probably the best scene in the movie that I’ve been told. That’s what they, the most popular people in the movie, my parents. So, I’d be nuts not to remember that. And then I thought, you know what the modern day equivalent of a postcard home is? The Skype call, from wherever you are.
PR: “Hey, here’s what I’m doing. Here’s in fact what I’m eating. Here’s the view out the window of where I am.” “Hi, look at this modern wonder,” said Grandpa. Look at what you can do. Well, it turns out that they’re the hits. Because they’re the most relatable. The parents in Raymond are kind of based on them. And so, they provided me with my whole life in every way, when you think about it.
EL: They are hilarious.
PR: I think so. My Dad, he’s 92 now, he tells a joke, I think, in the Israel episode. A guy was praying at the wailing wall, and somebody comes over. He says, “What are you praying for?” He says, “I pray for health. I pray for money. I pray for happiness?” And he says, “How’s it going?” And the joke is, “Well, it’s like talking to a wall.” But my father says it, “Well, you’re talking to a wall.” So, it’s okay, but the expression is, “It’s like talking to a wall.” That’s the known expression. So, I gave him another chance at it thinking I’ll only use in the show the good one. Now, I never do take two, but for 92-year-old Max, I’m going to give him another shot at the joke, because I’d like him to score. I think I would love a Max Rosenthal to have a show. I think Max would like to have a show where he just tells jokes. By the way, he was in Old Jews Telling Jokes.
PR: That web series, I think, of videos.
PR: He does three jokes if you can find it online.
EL: And he kills.
PR: He’s awesome. His timing, his face, he is awesome. But, here’s what I want people to do: Go on YouTube, search for Max Rosenthal, the restaurant joke.
EL: Right, okay.
PR: I’m telling you, as finely told joke as you will ever see and hear.
EL: So he did better in Old Jews Telling Jokes than he did on Somebody Feed Phil?
PR: Yeah, thanks Dad. No, he always delivers.
PR: He’s always funny. And just this process of me trying to coach him through the joke, and my mother next to him, when I say, “Let’s try it again,” she goes, “I have to hear this again? I’ve
heard it 500 times, this joke.” That’s marriage. That’s what you get. Yes.
EL: So, we haven’t even gotten to episodes that I want to talk about.
PR: Do what you want. It’s your show, Ed.
EL: And family, so-
PR: Don’t let the suits tell you what to do.
EL: We’re going to, this is going to be part one, this episode of Special Sauce. But, there’s so many more thing I want to ask you about. So, thanks Phil Rosenthal, and come back, Serious Eaters, next week.
[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Two days after Christmas, while playing around with some leftover ricotta, I made a delicious mistake. The goal had been to make a batch of Italian ricotta cookies with a brown butter twist, but, thanks to some miscalculation, the experiment fell flat…literally. […]