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Eaton supports many organisations, such as FCSI and the NRA Show

chairman. But, at this stage, that was still a long way into the future. After graduation in 1961, the real learning curve began as Eaton moved jobs and cities, amassing invaluable experience every step of the way.

but my roommate was a genius – he eventually ended up managing all the space trash for NASA – and he helped. I did OK and after my first year I had a B average, but I was not happy. I couldn’t see myself in a laboratory.”

Going places Eaton’s college years were not the best time for the US economy and work was not always easy to find. “When I went back to Pennsylvania I couldn’t get a summer job straight away,” he recalls. “There were PhDs sweeping floors then. I got work as a bellhop in a hotel at 50 cents an hour plus tips. When I moved to the front desk, I met O Ernest Bangs, the manager, who also worked for foodservice consultancy Stephens Bangs – the most ethical man I ever met,” Eaton remarks. Though he may not have known

it, this was the moment when Eaton’s first taste of the hospitality business opened the door to his later career. Bangs took over the food facility design course at Cornell – the first of its kind – when its originator Earl Stephens died. When Bangs heard Eaton was not happy with his engineering course, he suggested he transfer to the food facility design course and, after getting the first-ever perfect score on the aptitude test, Eaton made the switch.

The course was funded by the Food Facilities Engineering Society (FFES), which was later subsumed into what became the FCSI. It had had only a few students, most of whom ended up working at Cini-Little, of which Eaton is still


“In my senior year I married the daughter of the hotel’s boss, and bought a home. I wrote to all 62 members of the FFES and the few responses I received told me I was overqualified, until later one remembered my letter and I got a job in Chicago as a designer with Horwath and Horwath (now Horwath HTL), the first hospitality consulting firm of its kind.” Glad to leave Chicago’s cold winters behind, he next went to run a hotel in Maryland with his wife’s family before being contracted by Hot Shoppes Inc – later to become Marriott – as a designer. That is where he first met John Cini, who was head of kitchen design. “I met him in the parking lot on the first day. Then I walked in and saw two of my classmates from Cornell sitting there, including Dewayne Grissom, who would later start the consultancy firm with Cini. Eventually I became Cini’s assistant, but for various reasons I ended up out on my own and with a new wife, who wanted to move back to Virginia. I said I’d go if she got me a job, which I thought would never happen, but she did. I spent a year designing corporate cafeterias for Macke.” Then it was back to Marriott’s inflight services division, designing flight kitchens, before staff cuts saw him once again in the job market. After a similar job at John F Kennedy Airport, more than 200 miles from his home, Eaton decided that if he could not get a job locally he would quit and pump gas. “John Cini, who had formed a company with Grissom in 1968,

called to say he had got the contract for the World Trade Center design, but it meant working in New York and I didn’t want to live there. I wanted to work in Washington. On 31 December, 1970, just one day before I was going to quit to work in a gas station, Cini called again and offered me a job in Washington,” Eaton recalls.

A home at Cini-Little

For the next 44 years Eaton stayed with the company that ultimately became Cini-Little, where he started with a project as big as could be – the World Trade Center (WTC). Having helped design the WTC’s ‘Big Kitchen’ in the early 1970s, he would continue to work on that project until 9/11 (see box).

“Our work included the big kitchen on the first floor and the first real food court – 23,000 square feet – and a sit-down restaurant and bar. There was also a commissary in the basement to serve everything, including the Windows on the World restaurant at the very top of the building. It included a Michelin-

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