This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue.
If there ever was a cliche that needed updating, try "ladies who lunch." While it might still apply to a few blue hairs on New York City's Upper East Side, the female heavy lifters in the entertainment industry are taking brisker lunches with stricter agendas, the opposite of dawdling over leafy greens and Sauvignon Blanc.
Which is not, bringing up an old male cliche, steak and potatoes at The Grill, with its requisite who's-top-alpha-dog, all-boys-club seating. High-level industry women in both L.A. and NYC have three concerns when it comes to lunching: healthy, light food; proximity; and familiarity. Says Molly Madden, a manager and partner at 3 Arts: "I stick close to the office because we have crazy days; I can't be on top of the next table because I'm dining with clients and we need to be able to speak freely." She adds: "But what do women really want? A selection of food from salads to fish, nice people, no attitude and efficiency."
➻ Salad Days
Fresh greens are the go-to lunch choice, and none seems more popular than the McCarthy salad at the Polo Lounge, a fave of Showtime's Trisha Cardoso. Keanu Reeves' lawyer Melanie Cook orders the Nicoise while producer Keri Selig craves the iconic chopped salad at La Scala.
But anything light resonates with health- (or is it body-?) conscious women. AMPAS chief Dawn Hudson is a regular at M Cafe in Beverly Hills, while Nicole Clemens, senior vp and development head at FX, has two go-tos: "I love the salmon at Mariposa at Neiman Marcus, and I try not to snag a chocolate chip cookie, or worse, a pair of YSL heels, on the way out." At Sotto near the Fox lot, she orders the brick chicken with kale. KCRW DJ Anne Litt's idea of brain food is oysters and seafood at Hollywood's Hungry Cat and the brown rice and veggie classic at Ammo.
New York-based president of Sundance Productions Laura Michalchyshyn goes for the organic fare at Otto and Hudson Clearwater near her office. Other Manhattan restaurants on high rotation include Michael's (media), Fred's at Barneys (fashion, media), Da Silvano (art, film) and Bubby's, for the Tribeca crowd. The Lambs Club has caught on with the female exec crowd, who love the chicken Cobb salad and Nova Scotia lobster roll, but Abbe Raven and Nancy Dubuc remain regulars at more old-school Patroon in midtown.
➻ Close Encounters
Proximity is everything, when, as Management 360's Suzan Bymel explains, "we need to make New York calls, answer emails, run errands -- so I usually go next door to Kate Mantilini and grab something." Madden heads for one of the nearby most-desired quartet -- Bouchon, Spago, e.baldi or Sugarfish -- or dines at her desk. Gersh Agency senior managing partner Leslie Siebert also stays close to headquarters, dividing her lunch dates between Bouchon and the Beverly Wilshire. "They're the closest walking distance from my office," she says, "and if I'm wearing heels, these are the only options."
Cook frequents Toscanova in the Century City mall (also a favorite of many nearby CAA and ICM agents) because it's across the street from her office. PMK/BNC's Catherine Olim rarely lunches out, but if she does, it's always at Cecconi's: "It's walking distance from our office. I love the fabulous thin crust pizza and grilled calamari salad." Another Cecconi's regular: UTA's Blair Kohan, though she spends many a lunch at Clementine in the UTA building.
Melissa Zukerman, partner at Principal Communications, heads for the overflowing salads at Culina because "it's geographically desirable between Hollywood and the Westside." Bonnie Hammer, when she's in town, and CAA's Sonya Rosenfeld also are regulars.
➻ Ol' Reliables
Now, what's the secret of Bouchon having such a hefty dose of power regulars like Dana Walden with Jennifer Salke, Cynthia Pett, CAA's Hylda Queally, attorneys Jeanne Newman and Laura Wasser and Zooey Deschanel, Jessica Alba, Reese Witherspoon and even Oprah? "They love the chicken Paillard, salmon salad, warm lentil salad and filet of sole," explains Bouchon partner Laura Cunningham. "But Bouchon is also easy: We have light and unobtrusive service." And the truth is, in general, regulars always get better service.
Slate PR's Ina Treciokas sticks to a routine of, among others, Soho House, Barneys, the Beverly Hills Hotel and Ammo: "I rarely try anything new. These are my places. I love them. Why change?" Ammo also is the favored hangout of ABC drama chief Channing Dungey and Universal Television's Bela Bajaria, known to lunch at Chateau Marmont, the Polo Lounge and Pizzeria Mozza.
Of course, there are some women who frequent the male-dominated Grill. "You can see your whole phone sheet there," laughs Cook. "But I have to admit, when I'm there, I am usually with a man."