Rising Turkish Entrepreneurs in the American Restaurant Business

By Cemil Ozyurt - The number of food and beverage establishments owned by Turks or offering Turkish cuisine in the states of New York and New Jersey has reached 300. A comprehensive list of Turkish-owned or foreign-owned but Turkish cuisine-serving dining establishments was compiled in a study conducted by TURKOFAMERICA magazine. In New York and New Jersey, there are nearly 300 establishments operating in categories such as fine dining, authentic Turkish cuisine, steakhouse, seafood restaurant, fast food, cafe, lounge, bistro, diner, bakery, pizza & pide salon, hookah lounge, food trucks, and catering. While the number of businesses owned by Turkish entrepreneurs in America was around 50 in 2009, there has been a noticeable increase in the last 10 years. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 until now, nearly 100 businesses have been established.

Eyüp Ulu: The Unsung Hero of the Largest Disaster Relief Campaign: Mobilizing Turkish-Americans for Earthquake Aid

One of the greatest disasters of the century, the earthquake that struck on February 6, 2023, affecting 11 provinces in Turkey, prompted Turkish-Americans in the United States to mobilize for aid efforts. Online campaigns were launched, and people came together to donate clothing, medical supplies, tents, and various other materials. However, questions arose as to how and where the aid would be organized. The logistics company PortX, located in Carlstadt, New Jersey, became the central hub for the relief campaign on the East Coast. With the assistance of around 300 volunteers, nearly 200 containers of relief supplies were packaged at the PortX warehouse.

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Engin Aktaş: The Bread Whisperer Who Shaped the Destiny of a Community

Engin Aktaş, the successful Turkish professional who has been a manager at Calandra's Bakery for 40 years, is a man who stands as a right-hand man to the owner, a member of the family. His life story is a testament to resilience and triumph, unfolding against the backdrop of Calandra's Bakery, a renowned institution in New Jersey. Let's delve into the remarkable journey of Engin Aktaş, where passion, dedication, and a touch of destiny intersect. In August 1984, when he arrived in America, he sought to try his luck in his father's profession of baking in Türkiye. He applied for a job at a small bakery in Newark. The owner observed his dough handling skills but wasn't entirely impressed. "You're good, but not that good," he remarked. Determined, the young Engin boldly replied, "We'll see about that," and set off to another bakery across the street. There, he was immediately hired. After three weeks of work, he returned to the first bakery he applied for a job. Little did he know that this place would be Calandra's, one of New Jersey's most famous bread bakeries. From that day forward, he would change not only his own fate but also the lives of countless Turks who would venture into New Jersey. Established by Luciano Calandra, an immigrant from Palermo, Sicily, in 1962, the bakery is still managed by his children Anthony, Luciano Jr., and their grandchildren.

Jackson Hole Diner: A Legacy of Exceptional Burgers and Star-Studded Patrons

Jackson Hole Burgers chain were started by brothers Jimmy and Chris Meskouris at 232 East 64th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 1972. The name "Jackson Hole" was selected for the restaurant because they found a National Geographic article on Jackson Hole, Wyoming under the floor when they were renovating and they also happened to live in Jackson Heights, Queens.
In a recent interview with Alexander Meskouris, the owner of Jackson Hole Diner, we delved into the history and legacy of this iconic restaurant chain. Alexander, a third-generation Greek-American, shared his family's journey and their dedication to preserving the unique charm of Jackson Hole.

From Athens' Kitchens to New York's Plates: Vasiliki Vourliotaki's Culinary Expedition

Vasiliki Vourliotaki, a 36-year-old talented chef, was born and raised in Athens, Greece. She discovered her passion for cooking at a young age and pursued her culinary education in Athens. After completing her studies, she started working at a restaurant in Rhodes, Greece, which was part of a hotel. Initially, she began with simpler tasks like preparing salads but soon found her true calling in cooking on the line, specializing in sautéing and grilling. While there are no professional restaurateurs in her family, cooking has always been a shared love and talent. From her great grandmother to her father, mother, and even her brother-in-law, the art of cooking runs deep within their blood.

A Rising Star in the Gastronomy World

Emre Yeşil, 36, a visionary chef who continues his profession with unwavering passion. For about 13 years, he has been honing his skills as a chef. His participation in renowned food festivals in Türkiye has earned him numerous awards, showcasing his exceptional talent. He has also received culinary training at prestigious culinary academies, including the Istanbul restaurant of Turkey's Master Chef Mehmet Yalçınkaya. In 2018, he embarked on a new culinary journey in the United States, working in esteemed restaurants in New York and New Jersey.

Atis Group Launches New York Office

Atış Companies Group, one of the leading Turkish brands known for its investments and prestigious projects in Turkey, has announced the opening of its new office in New York. The grand opening ceremony, which marks an essential milestone in the company's global expansion strategy, will take place on June 20th with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. As part of its ongoing efforts to expand its international presence, Atış Group will open its office on 5th Avenue in New York, following the offices in Kuwait and Oman. With the aim of providing timely and on-site services to its international clients, Atış Group continues its growth and expansion efforts, planning to open offices in 14 countries by the end of the year. With a 16-year track record of generating over 1.6 billion dollars in investment value, constructing more than 3,000 living spaces in Burs, and nearly 200,000 square meters of commercial area, the company is poised to enhance its global presence significantly.

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Lieutenant Yakup Zoklu, First Police Officer of Syriac Community  


Lieutenant Yakup Zoklu, has been working for Cliffside Park Police Department since 2003. He was born in İstanbul and came to the U.S. when he was 7 years old. He is the first Syriac Turkish police officer in New Jersey. He got his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City, NJ and had a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He taught at both schools as adjunct professors when he went to Fairleigh Dickinson for his masters. He had Public Safety Administration certification, global leadership, human resource, and administrative science. Lieutenant Zoklu answered our questions.  

Heart-warming & Inspirational Story of Esendemir Sisters


Füsun, Gonca and Arzu Esendemir sisters started the Flatbread Grill® concept back in 2007 when their father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. They grew up in poverty, so the family never had health insurance. The father immigrated to American in 1975 in pursuit of a better education and to follow his own dream of entrepreneurship. The restaurant concept was started after Füsun was laid off from her corporate job so they could take care of her parents. Arzu had just graduated college and was trying to decide between a career on Wall Street or law school. The sisters developed the restaurant concept completely on their own: branding, operations, menu, etc. They created a special bread called Thumb Bread®, which played a significant role in the concept's success. The New York Times wrote about their restaurant and their bread two months after they had their grand opening. Fast forward to the present, after opening multiple stores, hand making millions of pieces of bread, and being in the restaurant business for over a decade plus years, they now sell the bread as a CPG product.

Passion, Brotherhood, Love and Cigar 

Fouad Kashouty has been a member of Masonic Lodge for 27 years. He is a Freemasons and founders of Hiram & Solomon Cigars. Everything started in 2014, when he decided to roll 1000 cigars to raise some money for a scholarship for the Masonic Lodge that he belongs to. That was an immediate success among Masonic Brethren that grew amazingly fast and caught the attention of non-Freemason smokers. Now he is selling about 1 million sticks across the world. This was the passion...  It took them about four or five years to get the rights of the Square and Compass (masonic symbols) for a cigar, he created a premium cigar. After a few years spent going back and forth with the lab and convincing the more conservative members that it is OK to do this and working with all the masonic charities. That’s how Hiram & Solomon Cigars have expanded. They grew faster than other companies because of the help and support of his masonic brothers in the market. That was the brotherhood...  

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