If you see a guy with silver hair who looks oddly familiar munching on a bierock in Wichita this weekend as a camera crew follows him around, there's a reason.
Taylor Hicks, the winner of the fifth season of "American Idol," is still a singer, but he's also now a travel host. He has his own show on INSP (channel 150 on Cox Cable in Wichita) called "State Plate." The show, in which Hicks travels from state to state with the goal of finding the dishes that most represent their histories and culture, is filming its third season, and Hicks is finally getting to Kansas.
He'll be arriving in the state "like a tornado," he said, Friday, June 15, and will conclude his tour through Monday. He has four stops scheduled, and Wichita is one of them. The others are Lawrence, Topeka, Wakarusa and Kansas City (and I sure do hope someone tells him that most of Kansas City is in Missouri.)
Hicks didn't know exactly when he'd be arriving in Wichita, but he did reveal one of the stops he'll be making: He'll try his first ever bierock at M&M Bierock, 2065 E. Central. (Hicks admitted during our phone interview that he'd never heard of bierocks, but once I explained them to him, he said he was intrigued.)
Known on "American Idol" for his energetic stage performances and big voice, Hicks went on to release three albums and perform in "Grease" on Broadway. He also had a long-term residency in Las Vegas.
An Alabama native, he also is an owner in Saw's BBQ restaurants in Birmingham.
Hicks said he's always been a foodie, and in his pre-'Idol' days of traveling to perform around the country, he was always excited to try new food.
In the first two seasons of the show, he ate bourbon balls in Kentucky, johnny cakes in Rhode Island, lobster roll in Connecticut and pierogi in Ohio.
"It's allowed me to get my feet wet in the hosting department, and I love being with people," he said. "Something that I've been fortunate to do is to meet a lot of different people from all over the country — and a lot of farmers. I feel like this show highlights the importance of the small farmer and how important he is to the food that we have on our tables."
Hicks, who said he also will explore the importance of wheat while he's visiting Kansas, says he doesn't announce where he'll be when on his trips, but if people spot him, he's happy to talk.
The show should be ready to air sometime in November. (And, he reports, his new album will be ready in the fall, too.)