Virginia native turns to reality television to take product nationwide

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Virginia’s seafood industry will reel in some national publicity Thursday when the maker of an artisan crab pie competes on a reality television show.

Virginia native Monica Van Cleve of Spotslyvania will appear Sept. 19 at 10:30 p.m. on Lifetime TV’s Supermarket Superstar as she tries to beat other contestants in an episode devoted to dinner entrees. The final winner of the series will have his or her food product produced, packaged and placed on the shelves of supermarkets nationwide.

Even before Van Cleve beat out thousands of other applicants during an open casting call in Austin, Texas, for the dinner entrée episode, The Van Cleve Seafood Co.’s Crab Pie was getting notice.

It has been sold at the family restaurant in Spotsylvania for a decade, and demand for the food item exceeded what the company could produce.  According to a company news release, Van Cleve Seafood has been approached by national retailers such as Whole Foods and

“We decided to close the restaurant last summer and put our time and energy into Crab Pie,” Van Cleve said in a statement.

The Crab Pie episode that airs Thursday was filmed in Los Angeles and Spotsylvania. “It is just one of those dishes that is … a one-of-a-kind seafood product that our family saw the success from making and selling the 150-year-old recipe in our own restaurant and wholesale,” said Van Cleve.

Since closing the restaurant, the Van Cleve family has concentrated on large-scale production of its artisan product. Crab Pie is a Virginia’s Finest product and comes in two varieties: Blue Crab and a cold-water Atlantic Red Crab caught 80 miles off of the Virginia coast.

“We now make our Crab Pies right at the source where they steam and pick fresh crabs – Graham & Rollins Inc. on the Chesapeake Bay. It doesn’t get any fresher than that! Our Crab Pies are all made by hand using all fresh ingredients,” Van Cleve said.

The company recently launched a manufacturing partnership with Graham & Rollins Inc., a fourth-generation crab processor in Hampton, to produce Crab Pie on a large scale for sale on the Van Cleve Seafood Co.’s website catalog.

For the Supermarket Superstar finale Sept. 26, three winners from the season will be invited back to compete for the grand prize by presenting their products to A&P CEO Sam Martin. Whoever wins will see their product launched in A&P supermarkets and affiliated chains nationwide.

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