Turkish pizza maker receives 4 proclamations in US
NEW YORK - Anadolu Agency
Hakkı Akdeniz, once homeless but now the owner of the famous Champion Pizza chain in New York, has received four proclamations in the United States, one from the House of Representatives.
He received a proclamation on Aug. 4 from the New York City Council that highlighted his “remarkable achievements and outstanding service to the community” and one from the Office of the Manhattan Borough president that underlined his “commitment to improve the city and vibrantly enriching the community.”
After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, Akdeniz announced he would give free pizzas to New Yorkers who brought water, candles, batteries, flashlights, diapers, vitamins, paper towels and other essential supplies to his restaurants as donations.
Partnering with American rapper Jay-Z and his music streaming company, TIDAL, Akdeniz sent two trucks loaded with supplies to Puerto Rico.
During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Akdeniz gave free pizzas and drinks from three of his establishments.
“He is an example of how refugees can affect positive change in American society” and “a champion of social justice, a leader in his community, and a trailblazer in the business world,” read the House of Representatives’ proclamation.
Akdeniz told Anadolu Agency his personal motto is “Don’t give to get. Give to inspire others to give.”
From five of his restaurants in Manhattan, leftovers are not discarded but sent to the Bowery Mansion homeless shelter.
Akdeniz also spent 96 days in the Bowery Mansion when he first came to the U.S. from Canada.
Born in 1980 in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakır, he went to Canada in 1997 to study but quit school to learn the art of pizza making during his stay there with his brother, and then left for New York in 2001 with only a few dollars in his pocket.
Akdeniz started from scratch and saved enough money to open his first restaurant on the Lower East Side in 2009. He has opened 13 venues since then.