By John Schaffner

Hundreds of members and guests of the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) attended the organization’s annual luncheon meeting Jan. 15 to salute the nominees and winner of the Buckhead Business of the Year Award and hear keynote speaker Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House from Georgia.

In addition, Elizabeth Gill, owner of Express Employment Professionals, assumed the BBA presidency, replacing Peter Rooney, vice president for development and alumni relations at Oglethorpe University.

MF Buckhead, a world-class sushi restaurant in the 100 Terminus building, was named Buckhead Business of the Year for 2008. The restaurant, owned and operated by brothers Chris and Alex Kinjo, promotes authentic Japanese cuisine and boasts of Atlanta’s only robata grill, a traditional Japanese charcoal grill. Chris is the chef, and Alex designed the restaurant décor.

Alex Kinjo accepted the award.

The four runners-up were Deka Athletics, Entebello Apothecary and Spa, Just the Thing jewelry and accessories boutique, and SecurAmerica, which provides security services for commercial clients.

In addition to the Buckhead Business of the Year Award, the BBA presented its Bullish on Buckhead Award to Sally Silver, who has been active for years in Buckhead, working both with businesses and residential neighborhoods as an officer of Neighborhood Planning Unit B. She has helped negotiate compromises between developers and neighborhood associations involved with many major Buckhead developments.

The BBA’s Buckhead Beautification Award went to Cousins Properties for its Terminus project at the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont roads, which incorporates many “green” development concepts. The award was accepted by Larry L. Gellerstedt III, executive vice president and chief development officer for the company.

Gingrich, who was first elected to Congress in 1978 and served the 6th District of Georgia for 20 years, told the luncheon audience at the Grand Overlook Ballroom of the Atlanta History Center that he will meet with his family in 2011 to decide whether he will seek the presidency in 2012.

Gingrich is known as the architect of the “Contract With America,” which led the Republican Party to victory in the 1994 House elections. In January 1995 he became the first Republican elected speaker of the House in 40 years.

Gingrich, who is teaching a course at the University of Georgia law school this year, said he also is bringing a film on Ronald Reagan, which he helped produce, to the Atlanta History Center in April.

Many of those attending bought Gingrich’s books at the luncheon, then had him autograph them.