Chances are you've heard of former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks.
But did you know the Alabama native has a passion for more than just music? We sat down with Taylor during his recent Michigan visit to talk about why he decided to bring his travel-cuisine show, State Plate, to the Mitten and what viewers can expect when the episode airs this fall.
Spoiler alert: He knows the right way to pronounce "pączki."
As Michiganders, we're well-acquainted with the rich bounty and quintessential dishes of our great state. But if someone who had never been to Michigan before wanted to know what the perfect Michigan "State Plate" was, what would you serve them? That's what Taylor Hicks' show State Plate seeks to explore. Now filming its third season, State Plate features Taylor's travels to different states across the country and his quest to assemble the perfect state plate—representing each one's most historic, famous and tastiest dishes.
While in Michigan, Taylor made special West Michigan-centric stops in Grand Rapids, Shelby and Kalamazoo—in addition to Lansing. His adventures in other states have brought him to ranches, docks, markets and festivals, so it's safe to say there are endless possibilities to where exactly Taylor ended up while here.
WMW: Welcome to Michigan! Is this your first time here?
TH: Thank you! I've toured and done some shows throughout the state in cities like Detroit and East Lansing, in addition to having some friends up in Traverse City, so I've been around the state, but not in a capacity like this. I get to come visit and try all of this great food—and that is what I'm particularly excited about.
WMW: How did you choose cities to visit and why?
TH: It's hard to swing through all of this big ol' state! Michigan has a lot of diverse influences from a wide variety of places, from Scandinavian to Norwegian and more. There are staples that are synonymous with farm-heavy Michigan that we were excited to touch on. We wanted to do a segment on some farmland because for as many delicious dishes that you can find in great establishments, there's just as many to discover on your local farms. We also wanted to do a wild rice segment focusing on Native American heritage, because there are tribal lands here in Michigan—an important historical aspect to touch on.
WMW: What can viewers expect to see when they watch the episode?
TH: Exploring foods that go hand-in-hand with Michigan was key. Viewers can expect to see some dishes that are definitely familiar, but they also may learn something new they didn't know before. There also may be a pączki appearance in Grand Rapids!
WMW: What's the most interesting experience you've had while filming the show so far?
TH: Being an Alabama boy, going to Alaska—a place I'd never been—and learning about all of the different foods there, was something I enjoyed immensely. Ever since I was a kid, I always wondered about all the places I'd never been to and what kinds of foods the people who lived there ate.
WMW: Have you tried something you never thought you would?
TH: Eskimo Ice Cream—it certainly looks like ice cream, but doesn't taste like it! [Insert whale blubber here.] But foods like that are fun to try! Eskimo Ice Cream is a perfect example of a food people might not necessarily think anyone eats, but serve as an important dish to different ethnic communities around the country—and usually we see that state-favorites regularly come from ethnic communities, like the Polish pączki that's so popular in Michigan.
WMW: I know this is the hardest question yet, but what's your favorite food?
TH: Being from Alabama, barbecue is probably my favorite. I've co-owned a barbecue restaurant for the past seven years and that's sort of how I got into hosting food and travel. Hopefully, I can eventually do a State Plate barbecue edition soon—all you need is some pig and whiskey!
Taylor also stressed the importance of appreciating the people who produce and grow staple items enjoyed all around the country. Once State Plate filming is complete, he'll be focusing on recording his new album in Nashville, which is due out in the fall.
State Plate airs at Mondays at 7:30 p.m. (EST) on INSP; viewers can catch the Michigan episode when it airs this fall.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer at West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of INSP.