Professionals (145)

"Professionals from all different industries, sectors, companies... Their success stories, life experiences, plans, and aims. From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, from law firms to technology companies, from New York to San Francisco."

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.

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...  

Rev. Father Aziz Who Teaches the Tongue Jesus Spoke

Rev. Father Aziz Hadodo has served as pastor of St. Gabriel Syrian Orthodox Church in New Jersey since 1994. One of the rare names to have a chance to know his family roots back 400 years. Due to a disagreement between cousins, a group flees from Diyarbakır, the largest Kurdish-majority city in Turkey to Midyat, a town in the Mardin province of Türkiye. Others follow them. They reconcile with the intervention of the clergy. As a result of this event, the family migrated from Diyarbakır to Midyat in 400 years ago. A Syriac patriarch from the family drew up a family tree for the first time 200 years ago. Another relative, who was a member of parliament in Syria, worked on the family tree about 60 years ago and brought it up to date.

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Why Midsize Firms Are Ramping Up Tech Investments After Clearing the Hybrid Hurdle

Chief operating partner, Barbaros Karaahmet, was quoted in a article discussing how Herrick has embraced investing in firm wide technology, which in turn streamlines productivity. The article highlighted how Herrick was already ahead of the technology adoption curve when the pandemic hit. In 2012, the firm was forced to briefly close its New York office when Hurricane Sandy hit. Barbaros recalled how, "We couldn’t go into the office for a week and a half. That was a pivotal moment to look at having safety nets and fail-safes. That’s when we decided we needed to invest in more technology."

An Expert on Commercial Real Estate in New York  

Prior to starting her career in real estate, she was at the United Nations representing World Information Transfer (WIT) in compliance with the Ukrainian Mission focusing on health and sustainable development related to the Chernobyl disaster. She later joined Kushner Companies working for their family office and that was her foray into commercial real estate. Damla spent 8 years at JLL, and joined Colliers International as a Director of Leasing. 

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