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


  • Champion P.
    08/27/2021 04:58


  • Jamileh A.
    06/25/2021 12:35

    Cv g bbbbbxf bbxbhhdhebhgdhhxhgffm bb

  • Mary O.
    01/25/2021 04:21

    Welcome to America Hakki

  • Andrea B.
    10/08/2020 23:03

    Good guy👍😁

  • Soner S.
    10/06/2020 06:47

    Hopefully my countryman keeps up the good work the more success he gets more people he helps

  • Jon M.
    09/12/2020 19:56

    Good man

  • Raul M.
    09/06/2020 19:21

    What part of america?.....south america?...central america?....north america?...wich america?

  • Thierry B.
    09/05/2020 11:37

    Am inspired by this

  • Liban H.
    08/29/2020 07:01

    Real champion

  • Ridwan K.
    08/28/2020 22:57

    God is great it’s time for you to give back and show your useful and you’re one of them no matter what ever Country gives you home like me UK and I’m so proud to be UK citizen

  • Yanis B.
    08/28/2020 18:54

    Bravo 🙏

  • Julia C.
    08/28/2020 03:03

    This is generosity at best !

  • Iliesa P.
    08/27/2020 20:39

    What a Legend

  • Tee B.
    08/26/2020 22:40


  • Isobel D.
    08/26/2020 22:28

    The Turkish people are very hard workers and are some of the most genuine people you will find. Well done and good luck.

  • Polly N.
    08/26/2020 20:52

    Totally, am inspired...thank you for sharing ❤

  • Eric P.
    08/25/2020 19:17

    God bless u 🙏💯

  • Gail T.
    08/25/2020 00:20

    What an incredibly caring man. Immigrants know what it is to struggle and for some reason people from the Middle East are very generous with giving back. Maybe it's their belief in Karma! Lebanese and Turks have a panache about their business sense. Amazing. 💜

  • Balakrishnan B.
    08/24/2020 11:04

    Great job man !! keep up the good work

  • Tito Q.
    08/22/2020 15:33

    i believe you,once youhad big heart,the blessing will pour it.

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