Sometimes excellent people experience horrible things. What genuinely defines us is revealed by how we handle adversity. That is demonstrated by Hakki Akdeniz. This is the tale of a guy who, after appearing to have nothing left, triumphed above all odds to win the World Pizza Championship.
Hakki Akdeniz might have given in to resentment and hopelessness after being duped by a friend who took four years’ worth of funds. Instead, he silently made the decision to persevere and began saving so that he might operate his own restaurant in another five years.
That eatery opened the door to many restaurants. The restaurant empire that this incredible man is now running is about so much more than just pizza and making money. With a strong commitment to giving back to the community, Champion Pizza exemplifies Akdeniz’s principles. Akdeniz immigrated to New York twenty years ago and ended up homeless and living on the city’s icy streets. He will always remember the incident. His goal has been shaped by his understanding of the desperation and humiliation of that circumstance, which has transformed countless lives.
The difficulties Akdeniz overcame moulded his character’s tenacity and hope. His business mentality was visible from a young age as he experimented with ways to earn because he was raised in a low-income area of Turkey. Before travelling to Canada without speaking a word of English and receiving training at his brother’s pizza shop, he was selling sandwiches and shining shoes.
He moved from there to New York with optimism and a few hundred dollars, but without help, everything quickly crumbled. When Akdeniz discovered employment as a dishwasher in a New Jersey pizza establishment, he was residing in a homeless shelter. After his night shifts, he slept on a bench because he was unable to navigate the trains back to New York. Akdeniz anticipated to be rejected when he told his supervisor, but instead he got a hug and a place to stay. Akdeniz says, “I was homeless, but he welcomed me as a human.”
Between those who have a place to call home and those who don’t, there is a chasm of humanity. It might be extremely thin between the two states. The downward spiral might be initiated by just one decision or set of circumstances. Perhaps this explains why there are myths about homeless people being lazy, addicts, or otherwise “evil” individuals. Perhaps we are afraid of seeing ourselves mirrored back if we look too carefully.
Akdeniz has heard countless tales from the New York homeless population that he helps. Everyone has a story, he claims, and no one chooses to live on the streets. War veterans to former TV producers have all been hired by Champion Pizza, but they all have one thing in common: they are all putting their all to the job in order to keep from being homeless once more. Akdeniz maintains that these are people who want to work and who yearn for connection, security, and purpose. He hopes that more business owners will be willing to consider hiring them.
Akdeniz’s life was altered by a pizza competition. After eventually launching his first restaurant, the enterprise was having trouble. He slept beneath the pizza oven after leaving his flat to save on rent. When the 2010 World Pizza Championship rolled around, he was just about to fail. With spinning dough on fire, Akdeniz performed amazing feats and won first place in all four categories.
Since kindness and respect are ingrained in the Champion Pizza brand, this achievement allowed him to flourish and preserved his company. Champion Pizza is now a franchise. The company has expanded, launching a line of frozen pizzas and other culinary products. Akdeniz never lost sight of assisting people and giving back to the community while growing his business to the pinnacles of material prosperity.
Akdeniz and his restaurant staff first distributed warm clothing and hot food as part of a weekly programme on West 34th Street. He distributed more than 200,000 pizza slices by the year 2018, never forgetting what it was like to be unable to afford one. Having been there while being homeless himself, he has a special connection to The Bowery Mission. In addition, Champion Pizza has helped those affected by disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Maria.
Akdeniz, who was given the 2019 Beacon Award as well as plaudits from the New York City Council, New York House of Representatives, and the L.E.S. Hispanic council, among others, keeps a cool head in the face of such illustrious recognition. Akdeniz’s sincere message to his 17 million Instagram followers emphasises the value of love and humility. Sometimes, the demands of our contemporary, productivity-focused culture can be met without regard for others’ welfare. Akdeniz is a motivating force that serves as a gentle reminder to do good deeds without expecting anything in return.