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A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Pamela Gonyea, The Grill on the Alley’s lunchtime maitre dame, is the take-no-guff gal at the center of the industry’s reigning boys’ club. She wields ultimate control over the bestowal of the room’s coveted tables. Gonyea — sister of NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea (he’s the fifth and she’s the sixth of nine children) — has worked in the restaurant business all her life, arriving at The Grill nearly 13 years ago from the Beverly Wilshire hotel restaurant that was replaced by Cut.
“It was so formal, and it just wasn’t me,” says the effervescent Detroit native. “Here, it felt like I came home. This is considered fine dining, but it’s not stuffy at all.” She has become attuned to the politics of the room: “When I have booths from different agencies, I’ll put a buffer with an entertainment lawyer — a Bruce Ramer or a Skip Brittenham.” And she has developed an innate sense of the exact limits of the space: “You have to know everything about the room, down to which tables have smaller bases at the bottom, for a few extra inches to maneuver for extra seating. I’ve spent time as a flight attendant, so I’m really good at packing.”
The Grill’s booth-dwelling power players universally sing her praises, from manager John Carrabino (“We all love her, how she handles herself with grace under pressure”) to Brian Grazer (“Pam makes everybody feel so comfortable and special and important”). Then again, how could they not love her? After all, come 1 o’clock, she’s the one with the real power.
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