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Former 'American Idol' champ explores some of WV's signature foods

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On Monday at noon, West Virginia gets its turn on culinary travel show “State Plate,” hosted by Taylor Hicks, season five “American Idol” champion.

On the program from the INSP television channel, Hicks visits different U.S. states looking for popular local dishes to taste.

“We try to find those iconic foods that are iconic to that state,” he said.

Sometimes, these are dishes that the rest of the nation knows little to nothing about and Hicks said they try to get to the source of where the dishes come from and get the stories of how they came to be.

Through the program, the singer visits docks, farms and ranches, as well as restaurants that have a close tie to the food Hicks will taste.

“We just want to expose the food,” Hicks said.

It’s been a great project for the performer who bragged about his southern palette. He enjoyed the travel and the trying new things, but he acknowledged he had some favorites.

“Maine was great, if just for the lobster,” he said. “And Alaska was very interesting.”

In the 49th state, Hicks ate Reindeer Dogs and pickled kelp, among other local delicacies.

In West Virginia, he said, there really wasn’t a choice of what he had to try.

“No question,” Hicks said. “I did a pepperoni roll. That’s a big, iconic West Virginia thing.”

And kind of unique, as pepperoni rolls haven’t really caught on around the country.

Hicks got his pepperoni roll from the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, which was started by coal-miner-turned-baker Guissippi Argiro in 1927.

Argiro is said to have created the first pepperoni roll based on what his fellow Italian mineworkers brought to the mines for lunch — a hunk of bread, a hunk of pepperoni and a jug of water.

The singer said he enjoyed his pepperoni roll.

“I love Italian stuff, but to have a big, Italian roll with pepperoni was great,” he said.

Hicks said he also tried a Golden Delicious apple dumpling, made with the state’s official apple.

“That was divine,” he said.

When he’s not doing “State Plate” or touring with his music, Hicks said his go-to comfort food was barbecue, which is probably convenient, too.

The singer co-owns a couple of barbecue restaurants in and around Birmingham.

Alabama style barbecue, he said, was kind of a mix of different styles — a little North Carolina, a little Texas-style.

“But it’s all about the sauce,” Hicks said.

Monday night’s episode of “State Plate” was filmed during a cold patch in April, though they were only in West Virginia for a couple of days. Hicks said the show typically shoots in two states to maximize the crew’s time.

“We spent eight days out in West Virginia and South Carolina,” he said.

It made for a grueling travel schedule and some climate shock between the two states. It was warm in South Carolina while there was snow still on the ground in parts of West Virginia, but Hicks said, “We had a blast.”

So far, INSP has aired 38 episodes in 38 states. Hicks hoped he’d get to do all 50 and then after that?

“Maybe go back for seconds,” he said.

The West Virginia episode is scheduled to be broadcast on INSP at noon on Monday.

Reach Bill Lynch at, 304-348-5195 or follow @lostHwys on Twitter.

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