My First Day in America - Episode 1: Hakki Akdeniz

"See the bench over there? So for two-and-a-half days, I [slept] over there." Hakki Akdeniz moved to New York City from Turkey in 2001, broke and homeless. He's now an award-winning chef and owns a popular pizza chain. This is how he lived on his first day in America.

When you make pizza, you’ve gotta make it with love

Hi, my name is Hakki Akdeniz. I'm 39-years-old and I’m from Silvan, Diyarbakır, Turkey. The first day I came to this country is right here. Get off from here, and then from here, just like them, see how they walk? I had small luggage. So this place is the first day in my life in America. When I came here in 2001, January 28, is right here. I came by bus with my small luggage and I get off over there. So when I came here, it was really cold and they gave me a place [to stay] called the Bowery Mission. And I lived there for 96 days.

In 2001, I stay over here. Ten years later, I opened my pizza shop in this neighborhood. After I opened my pizzeria, I found, Bari, B-A-R-I, Bari is a restaurant supplier. I went over there. And my dough mixer, it broke down. So that's why… my dough mixer because when I opened my pizzeria, everything broke down. It was a second-hand pizzeria. And then I walked by and I walk by and I see Bowery Mission.

So, we all right now on 170 Rivington St. It's called the neighborhood is called Lower East Side. And when I get over here in 2009, December 27, so three days before 2010, I open the pizza shop. No Champion, no Champion. This was my first place. And when I opened, there was a. It was like so much memory over here. This place is like it saved me. It saved my life. It saved me. It makes me a to be the biggest supporter for homeless people today. Believe one. Yeah. I mean, I always want to have them. But if you don't have money, you can help them that much.


11/14/2019 11:19 AM
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  • 281


  • Sandra K.
    2 days

    He is Kurdish who comes from occupied North Kurdistan, left the scum place called Turkey full of Mongol Turks that occupy Kurdish, Greeks and Armenian land.

  • Haytham H.
    2 days

    You are so kind

  • Patrick M.
    3 days

    Good man

  • Yildirim T.
    4 days

    Massahla kardes

  • Mariusz S.
    4 days


  • Ali K.
    4 days

    Halal olsu sana nerelerden neyeye gelmiş geldigi yeri unutmamış kendini kaybetmemiş

  • Ian V.
    4 days

    Great story man. Seems like a real humble person. Blessed is your generosity and kindness of heart.

  • Mahwash S.
    4 days

    What an amazing human being!

  • Oliver H.
    4 days

    Nice man,if the world was like him.The police would be out of JOB

  • Hassan H.
    4 days

    dit is zeker geen

  • Ayo O.
    4 days

    Rely really inspired . with love from nigeria

  • Vineet S.
    5 days


  • Clint C.
    6 days

    Hakki sucks

  • Ivan V.
    01/12/2020 04:03

    I like Hard working People

  • Ivan V.
    01/12/2020 04:03


  • Bindi D.
    01/11/2020 22:18

    What a nice man, with a good soul

  • Singh S.
    01/11/2020 11:49

    Lovely work mate.

  • Puri N.
    01/10/2020 04:18

    must watch

  • Ravi S.
    01/09/2020 15:20

    A great Human... Hats off to him

  • Russell D.
    01/07/2020 18:46

    Well done my man, keep going strong & thanks for giving back....respect 🙏🏼👨🏽‍🍳