‘State Plate’ and Taylor Hicks put spotlight on CT’s food

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Taylor Hicks won the hearts of America as the last singer standing on “American Idol.”

Now Hicks is traveling into the heart of America on the INSP food show, “State Plate.” And on April 2, Hicks’s visit to Connecticut will make its debut on the cable network.

“State Plate,” according to press materials finds Hicks “on a quest to assemble plates that represent each state’s most historic, famous, and tastiest foods… as he travels from coast to coast visiting farms, ranches, markets, and festivals in order to uncover the stories and legends behind each state’s unique food traditions.”

Although the appointed leader of Idol’s “Soul Patrol” may be known for his musical talent, Hicks’s credential as a foodie are pretty solid.

“I had been touring a lot as a kid touring through Alabama,” said Hicks, who grew up in the southern state.

During his time on the road as a musician,  Hicks said,“We would visit all these places (restaurants and food establishments)… We would pretty much go on a food tours.”

Plus, Hicks said, his upbringing gave him no choice but to learn indulge in food. “Being in Alabama and the South,” the host of “State Plate” said, “you could not have a palate for food.”

Besides loving the taste of food, these days, Hicks also delivers the food to the mouths of America as co-woner of Sawe’s Juke Joint in Birmingham, Ala.

Food is a “great outlet for me,” said Hicks. “It fits my personality being from the South and being a fan of barbecue.”

Prior to arriving as host of “State Plate,” Hicks already was aiming to be at the helm of a food show. He said he had been pitching ideas to networks that placed him in the role of a host of a food show.

And then, Hick said, “The stars aligned. ‘State Plate’ was looking for a new host.”

Hicks said he liked the idea behind “State Plate.”

Being someone from Alabama, Hicks said, he often wondered what people liked to eat in other states. And he was sure the feeling was mutual for people who lived in other states as well. Additionally, he liked the educational aspect of the show and the culinary exploration involved.

In his travels of the United States, Hicks said one of the aspects of the culinary spectrum across the country he noticed the most is the importance of the small farmers who bring the food to the table that Americans love. “I have much respect for farmers and small farmers.”

Along his travels, which have taken him to 36 states in two seasons, Hicks also said he has learned to love all of the regional delicacies. But he has developed a special affinity for wild asparagus from Minnesota. “Wild asparagus is something I never tried before.” He said he already loved asparagus. But wild asparagus, he said, “takes it to another level.”

The April 2 episode of “State Plate” will put the focus on Connecticut food. So, on that episode, Hicks visits Mystic Oysters in Mystic, Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria in New Haven, Avery’s Beverages in New Britain, Ford’s Lobster Restaurant in Noank, and Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden.

“Connecticut is such a beautiful plate of food,” said Hicks.

“The state of Connecticut has such a great local flavor. It’s a neat experience because you have land and sea,” said Hicks. When the food matches the landscape, Hicks said, it “can make for a euphoric feeling.”

When audiences tune into “State Plate” to learn about Connecticut’s food scene or the food landscape of any state, Hicks said he hopes the show inspires them to take the time to take a visit to those states and try the local favorites.

And, ultimately, he said he would like to see his audience expand their palate. “I definitely have a bigger palate (since doing the show),” said Hicks.

The Connecticut episode of “State Plate” will premiere on family-entertainment network INSP on Monday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m.. INSP can be found in Bristol and Plainville on Xfinity Channel 83 and in Southington on Cox Channel 172.

For more information, go to www.insp.com.

“State Plate’s” third season also has been announced by the network.

‘State Plate’ host Taylor Hicks poses with Rob Metz of Avery’s Beverages in New Britain. They are making a soda float. The April 2 episode of the show highlights Connecticut culinary delights such as Avery’s Beverages.

A steamed cheeseburger from Ted’s Restaurant.