Reality TV Watch: 2 New Shows Could Star the Washington Food Scene

A local producer is developing pilots for DC-based programs.

Nycci Nellis (right) poses with Salt & Sundry owner Amanda McClements at the Rasika West End opening party. Nellis and her family are the subject of a reality show being developed by local producer Michael Holstein. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

Washington hasn’t played host to many national food programs since Top Chef: DC, but local television producer Michael Holstein aims to change that. The QuenchTV president is currently producing pilots for two reality shows centered on local chefs and food media.

As we reported earlier, Holstein—who also owns Quench cocktail bar—is working on a show he describes as “Project Runway for restaurants.” The concept: Aspiring designers tackle an eatery that needs a redesign, and compete to remake everything but the food. Originally the pilot showed design students remodeling Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff-Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran. Holstein says he’s now reshooting with more professional “characters” in the cast, and with an eye on a variety of restaurants in Washington and New York.

His second local concept is a reality show focused on Foodie & the Beast radio personalities David and Nycci Nellis, their five children, and, according to a press release, “three huge dogs.” Holstein says the show will be nothing like the other food-media-centric reality program du jour, Bravo’s Eat Drink Love, which features lots of forced flirting and awkward reveals (one restaurant publicist admits to hiding food in her sofa).

“It’s a reality show, but in the good sense of the word,” says Holstein. “It’s not going to be Duck Dynasty. It’s about a couple who has a super-glam, interesting life.”

The 30-minute program would focus on the Nellises’ opposites-attract relationship. From the press release:

He’s ‘the Beast’, a 60-something, cranky-but-charming, ad agency owner. Devoted to his third wife, a foodie born and bred, he thinks a lot of ‘that foodie stuff’ is hype and bunk. She, ‘the Foodie’ is 20 years his junior; a witty, sexy, fashionista writer, radio host and highly regarded food personality. She . . . is certain that the Beast hasn’t got a clue. That said, they’re happily married with five kids, several gigantic dogs, and a rolodex full of a who’s who in the culinary world. The result? A rock ’n’ roll life filled with dining out, parties, famous friends and ‘food fights’ over a variety of topics ranging from food, wine and chefs to spirits, brews, farming, sustainability and lots more (including car pools, hip-hop lessons and homework).

In addition to culinary hijinks with the likes of Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio, Holstein says each episode will end with dinner at the Nellis home, helped along by rotating toques including the Source’s Scott Drewno.

Holstein plans to pitch the show to outlets such as the Food Network and Bravo. Stay tuned to find out its fate.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.