*This story originally appeared in The Budget’s March 8, 2018, Local Edition.
By Beverly Keller
What do buckeye candies, Cincinnati chili, pawpaw fruit, pierogies and Baby Swiss cheese have in common? They were all featured on the latest episode of State Plate, hosted by Taylor Hicks.
Holmes County was in the National spotlight thanks to a television show that aired Monday night on the INSP Network. Host Taylor Hicks, the winner of Season 5 of American Idol and current barbecue restaurant owner and food-lover extraordinaire, came to Amish County last fall to learn all about Baby Swiss cheese at Guggisberg Cheese Factory near Charm.
“It was a great experience to visit Amish Country and meet Ursula and the Guggisberg family,” Hicks shared. “They have an amazing story that dates back to her grandparents creating Baby Swiss. Ursula was absolutely amazing to work with.”
Ursula Guggisberg-Bennett echoed the same thoughts on Hicks. “He was easy to work with,” she explained. “It was like talking to an old friend. Off camera, he was talking to the guys about sports. It really was a great experience.”
Hicks explained that the process of making cheese is more complicated than he imagined. “It is almost as complicated as bees making honey because everything has to be just right,” he said. “Guggisberg has to be one of the greatest dairies in the country.”
Hicks noted that the awards the cheesemaker has won to date are nothing short of phenomenal. “I think they probably have won the American Idol of cheese a few times over,” he said with a laugh. “I wonder if winning Grand Champion Cheesemaker is like winning American Idol. I didn’t ask.”
The unique area of Holmes County also impressed Hicks during his time in the Doughty Valley. “This is a very unique area, very culturally-centered,” he shared. “I’ve been to other areas like Hershey in Pennsylvania but they don’t come close to what is there in Ohio in Holmes County.”
Work ethic was also something that left an impression on Hicks about his visit to the area. “Everyone works very hard for that end product,” he said. “You can see with the Guggisberg family how important the family unit and working together are to the success of their business.”
Guggisberg-Bennett shared that the family felt honored to be picked for the show. “We are one of three foods featured from Ohio,” she said “We feel honored to have been picked. It was neat to walk Taylor through the process and teach him that this area is part of what makes us who we are. The rolling hills of Holmes County and our local family farms set us apart.”