"You can’t come from Alabama and not be a foodie."
On Election Day in 2004, George W. Bush received 62 million votes to win presidential re-election. On May 24th, 2006, Taylor Hicks received 63.4 million votes to be crowned Season 5 American Idol champion. To this day, the accomplishment of the latter is the one I recall more fondly.
Taylor Hicks, then only 29 years old, had already been performing music for over a decade, releasing two independent albums, and performing at musical venues mostly in the Southern US. He shared the stage with the likes of James Brown, Tom Petty and Jackson Brown. Mainly self-taught, Taylor plays harmonica and guitar, and of course uses his vocal gifts to create a tone as deep and rich as the earthy sheen on a well-worn saddle.
Then came American Idol. Despite the strong competition of finalist Kathrine McPhee, (not to mention some other highly talented contestants that year) Taylor managed to attract a strong cohort of the public who enjoyed a mix of country, blues, rock, and soul. His renditions of Take Me Home, Country Roads, Trouble, and You are So Beautiful impressed the judges and the voters alike.
After several guest appearances on TV, headlining at Caesars, and gracing the Broadway stage in Grease, Taylor has a new venture that combines culture, travel, personal connections, and something we all love – FOOD. A restauranteur himself, Taylor is hosting a culinary travel series called State Plate, broadcast on INSP, in which he samples signature cuisine from each of these Unites States (spoken in Taylor’s Alabama accent). His journey to Maryland featured their famous crab cakes, and in Texas he sampled a bowl of chili (with cornbread, I’m sure). By the end of the second season, the goal is to check off 36 states from the bucket list of deliciousness.
But just as we at extremeluxurygetaways.com believe in storytelling over standard content, so Taylor dives headfirst into each of his state plates (not literally) as much a historian as a chef, pairing the cuisine to the culture and to that state’s natural resources.
State Plate has come to NY; the episode airs on Friday, September 1 at 8:00PM ET. We had the opportunity to interview Taylor concerning his motivation for the show, his love of food, and, of course, his take on luxury.
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ExtremeLuxuryGetaways: How did you first get interested in the culinary arts and the food culture?
Taylor Hicks: Well, I think everybody who is born in Alabama is part of a culinary culture. You can’t come from Alabama and not be a foodie. It’s built around family and friends, but also being a restauranteur and with the travel I have done through my music career, which I have been doing since I was 17, [food] has been part of my lifestyle…it’s been a labor of love to a certain degree, and it’s been a blessing as well.
ELG: What do you see as the relationship between your music background and your culinary background? What is your conduit from one to the other?
TH: I think art is art. It’s in the eye of the beholder, or rather in the eye of the taste buds, so to speak. It’s across the board…a great meal is like a hit song – there’s a lot of moving parts, and you have to put a lot of love and time into it, there’s sweat equity and emotional connection in both…and that’s why I love both of them.
ELG: By the end of the second season of State Plate, you will have covered about thirty six states. How many have you done up to now?
TH: I think we’re up to 26, and we’re moving through them pretty quickly. I’m just blessed to get to travel still as much as I do, and with this show, getting to see the culture of American, and not just the culture in general, but the food culture of each particular state. You know, there are different regions of food for us here in America. We try to expose what each state loves, and what iconic food comes from each state. This is the reason why I think State Plate is such a great show…because I think it clearly defines the food that comes from each state.
ELG: Do you have a favorite state so far that you have featured on the show?
TH: Maine has been one of my favorites, and being from Alabama we just hadn’t gotten up to Maine all that much. I loved it because we went during lobster season when we could get out on the boat..and then obviously just the blueberries…I guess just the state in general is really earthy and really all about its arts whether it be music or food…it was one of those states that we hit right at the right time with the perfect combination of food and music.
ELG: On a slightly different note, when you first auditioned for American Idol, Simon Cowell doubted you. Have you found with this venture (State Plate) that you’ve undertaken that there were any similarly doubters, and how do you address that?
TH: Yeah…I think it just comes with the business. You know, you’re always going to have people doubt what you do, whether you’re in show business or in culinary arts, you always going have some speculation whether it’s going to be a hit. Being the host of a food and travel show, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, and you know, opportunity creates luck, and it’s something you have to be aware of. I have been in show business now upwards of over a decade, believe it or not, and every time you just hope things work out, and for this particular venture, State Plate, it hit.
ELG: How do you define luxury?
TH: I think another word for happiness is luxury. Wherever your “happy place” is, that defines your own luxury.
Video credit: Today In Nashville Published on Nov 17, 2016