Introduction – A very warm welcome and thank you for attending and, once again, my grateful thanks to Past President Simon Roberts for his generosity and hospitality in hosting this year’s AGM and dinner at the National Liberal Club. It doesn’t seem possible that I have served as your President for two years. I recently commented to someone else that my year ‘in the chair’ in another organisation goes very quickly but so, I must admit, does two years as President. There is much more I would wish to have done but my own availability has been limited by two demanding part time roles and other professional interests. However, I am pleased to report that, this time last year, members agreed to two new membership categories and I very much hope that the Associate category will continue to attract younger Food & Beverage professionals into the Society.

In my renewal letter earlier this year I referred to several excellent events during 2019 including lunch at Café Spice Namaste hosted by Cyrus Todiwala and the 101st annual banquet held the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel, formerly the Russell Hotel, in November. I am particularly pleased that the ‘member get member’ event in January at L’Oscar resulted in 13 new members to the Reunion.  As I wasn’t able to attend this event, I take this opportunity to welcome our new members. I have made the point on a few occasions that the future of the Society depends upon a continual inflow of suitably qualified, interested and enthusiastic new members.

During the past year we have been fortunate to once again be able to visit and enjoy excellent dinners in superb venues.  I am delighted to see that this trend is continuing with the fantastic programme of events for the year ahead that Vice President Alison Frith and other Committee members have been able to arrange for your enjoyment. I do hope that as many members as possible are able to attend as many events as possible.

Roundup – The past 12 months has been another successful year for the Gastronomes, and I am extremely grateful to everyone on the Committee and those who have helped secure venues.  Dinners during 2019 included the City of London Club in April, the Law Society in May, the summer outing to South Lodge in July, Grouse Supper at Brooks’s, the Annual Banquet mentioned previously and Christmas lunch at Brown’s Hotel.  I hope members will enjoy the events planned for 2020 and beyond.

President’s Award – The third annual President’s Award was awarded to both Alexandros Kaloudas, Restaurant Manager at the Hilton London Bankside and Gabor Nagyvaradi, Assistant Conference and Banqueting Manager at the Royal Air Force Club.  The Award was established to help inspire young professionals in the hospitality industry.  Furthermore, it was hoped that this would support them in following a career in food and beverage services and also have potential for membership of the Reunion.  The Award is open to anyone working full time, at supervisory or management level, in food and beverage services in the hospitality industry within the United Kingdom.  Alexandros and Gabor received their award from myself and our principal guest Chris Moore, Chief Executive of The Clink Charity, at the annual banquet.  The 2020 President’s Award will be open for applications shortly, please encourage applications from your areas of business and interest.

It only remains for me to thank the Vice President and the Committee for their support during my tenure as President.  It has been a great privilege for me to act as your President for the past two years and I wish the next President, Committee and members of the Society continuing success.

Wallace E. Vincent