Second Réunion des Gastronomes winner revealed

Andras Lakezi, food and drink manager at the Kimpton Fitzroy London (formerly The Principal London), has been awarded the Réunion des Gastronomes President's Award 2018.

The second year of the initiative, run by the UK's oldest culinary organisation, it again attracted a very high calibre of entrants.

Lakezi's trophy was presented to him by guest of honour Cyrus Todiwala OBE, DL, alongside the Réunion's President Wallace Vincent (pictured) at a glittering awards ceremony during the organisation's 100th Annual Banquet last Friday. This was held at London's Drapers' Hall and attended by some 200 senior figures in the hospitality industry.

As part of his prize, Lakezi receives invitations to attend five Gastronome events, extensive mentoring and networking opportunities, plus membership of the Réunion for two years. In addition, he receives the opportunity of a range of industry-based experiences, across a raft of industry sectors.

Alison Frith, Vice President of the Réunion and one of the judges, said, 'Each finalist impressed us with their knowledge, experience, skills and vision. It was particularly noted how each candidate wished to give something back to the hospitality sector in their future careers.

'Although extremely close, the winner was a unanimous choice and stood out for his objective and progressive answers to the questions asked, as well as his continual reflection on how he could help his team and optimise the opportunity to develop further, should he win.'

Theresa Maw, another member of the panel, commented, 'Andras Lakezi has inspired and impressed us all. An inspirational and dedicated hotelier, he has proved consistently that he is a very strong leader, achieving tangibly high results. Andras is totally dedicated to our fabulous industry, and spends a great amount of his time motivating and training his teams to deliver and exceed customers' expectations.

'He is truly a strong people person, and has a ‘leading from the front' approach. Despite being extremely busy, he still makes time to give back to the industry in many different ways. A role model in all that he delivers, he very much deserves this prestigious award. Congratulations!'

The other two finalists were Kieran McLoughlin, general manager, Hide Ground Floor London, and Jatin Parmar, Old Hall food and beverage manager at Rockcliffe Hall, Co. Durham. All the finalists were guests at the Annual Banquet.

Chairman of the judging panel, John Cousins, commented, 'Once again we have been seriously impressed by the passion for our industry that all our finalists displayed. Because of this, our other two finalists are also being offered opportunities for professional mentoring.'

The judging panel comprised: Alison Frith, managing director of Artizian Catering Services; hospitality consultant Theresa Maw; Serge Pradier, general manager at the Institute of Directors and immediate past president of the Réunion and John Cousins, the chair of the judges, director of The Food and Beverage Training Company.