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." @hakkiakdenizpizza 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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  • 137


  • Barbara D.
    2 days

    Awesome story !!! Keep up the love brother . God bless . 🌹

  • Stacey M.
    3 days

    I enjoyed seeing this amazing story and how this wonderful man came to this country with almost nothing and started a pizzeria chain with very hard work and determination and how he gives back to the community which once helped him when he was in need this man is just one of the many foreigners that come to this great country to fulfill a dream and have it come true and to give back to the community and help others down on their luck truly gives new meaning to the word fanominal

  • Lecon C.
    3 days

    He came to a great country to make it greater. Not like those Mayflower guys.

  • Richard M.
    3 days

    In september 1954 i spent my first day in the US right here. It closed shortly after that. Yep, Ellis Island.

  • Najam A.
    4 days

    That’s how we Turks are!

  • David
    5 days

    That’s awesome 👏🏻

  • Sue F.
    5 days

    Blessed we are to have you in this country!!

  • Alex D.
    5 days

    I bet he got help from the government . Me as an American born citizen. I have to starve. I love this country more and more

  • Nilda H.
    6 days


  • Nancyliz O.
    6 days

    WoW amazing

  • Feven M.
    6 days

    Such an amazing story 👏

  • Alexis M.
    12/03/2019 14:01


  • Jose M.
    12/02/2019 17:20

    Thank you for all your kindness in helping others. God bless you in all you do.

  • Thulsika W.
    12/02/2019 13:12

    Dude has become an American!

  • Lorena K.
    12/02/2019 04:12

    That is very nice you have a huge heart God bless you.

  • Donnie W.
    12/01/2019 18:25

    Sounds like to me this man is very smart, and knows exactly what he's talking about. Can't get any better than that.

  • Sherry P.
    12/01/2019 17:40

    Very inspiring! God bless!

  • Veena P.
    12/01/2019 16:54

    Very nice

  • Aleksandra S.
    12/01/2019 09:41

    A dear man, with a beautiful big heart. ❤❤❤❤❤

  • Radhames M.
    12/01/2019 04:27

    that is what inmigration is all about, not all of us are drug dealers an criminals this man is and example of dedication hard work and love others the way GOD intended.