Turkish pizza maker honored as ‘great immigrant’ in US
Hakkı Akdeniz, the owner of the famous pizza chain Champion Pizza and known for his charity work, has been included in the list of the “great immigrants” announced every year by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the U.S., a philanthropic fund established to support education programs, and became the first Turkish person to be included in this list.
“I was just one of those immigrants who come here with big dreams,” Akdeniz said. “I am honored and proud to be recognized by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.”
Born in 1980 in Türkiye’s southeastern city of Diyarbakır, he went to Canada in 1997 to study, but then he quit school to learn the art of pizza making during his stay there with his brother and later 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.
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911, the Carnegie Corporation of New York supports educational programs in many countries, especially the U.S.
Every Fourth of July, Carnegie Corporation of New York celebrates a group of remarkable Americans — all naturalized citizens — who have enriched and strengthened our nation and our democracy through their contributions and actions.
This year, the Corporation honored 34 individuals from 32 countries and a wide range of backgrounds, including local leaders who work in education, arts, law enforcement, public service, health care and small business ownership, as well as community-based advocates for education equity, climate change, food security and programs for the homeless.