Ahmet came to the U.S. from Turkey in 2001, hoping to earn a Master’s degree in business and math.They were his favorite subjects and he admits with a grin, “I like math.” With math on his mind, he moved to Florida and lived with a host family for eight months. Ahmet became an integral part of their family and often babysat their nine-year-old son. The boy helped Ahmet navigate his newly-adopted country, learn English and become a fan of baseball. Today, he always roots for the Astros!
With several brothers living in Houston and loving it, Ahmet decided to move. He attended a Christian school with ESL classes, where his primary book was a Bible. The words were very difficult for him to understand and he begged for something simpler to read, like a newspaper. The school’s strategy worked because he is not only fluent in his second language, but seems to have an affinity for languages. Whenever someone from another country comes to Phoenicia’s hot grille line, he eagerly quizzes them on words and phrases related to customer service in their country and can now say “Hello, may I help you?” in many languages. He is often heard greeting a customer in Japanese or naming different toppings in Spanish. He has even learned sign language. Ahmet works very hard to make people feel comfortable at Phoenicia. He wants them to feel as he does, like it’s a second home.
Ahmet has a passion for food, has worked at several pizza restaurants and is quite the expert with pizza dough, kneading, pressing and tossing like an Italian master. He also worked at a Turkish restaurant, where the owner taught him to make exciting entrées, breads, appetizers and desserts. Ahmet then took a chance and opened a restaurant in The Woodlands with his brother. It was a fun two-and-a-half-year adventure, but a desire for change led him to Phoenicia.
When Ahmet first came to Houston, his family took him to Phoenicia’s Westheimer location, where he was thrilled to find so many products from home. As a restaurant owner, he became a wholesale customer and found Phoenicia to be a very friendly company. Luis, Phoenicia’s driver extraordinaire, was one of his first friends in Houston and he often placed orders with Esin, a manager at the Westheimer store, whom he held in high esteem. He believed with so many wonderful people, Phoenicia must be a great place to work. One day, as Ahmet was lamenting his desire for a change, Luis suggested he come to work for Phoenicia. Ahmet loved the idea and went to the store where he finally met Esin. With his warm personality shining brightly in his interview, Ahmet was hired for the hot grille Downtown.
He enjoys educating customers about foods they may not have tried and keeps up with regular customers and what is happening in their world. Everyone is a “cousin brother” to Ahmet. With a positive disposition and eternal smile, he landed the nickname, “Smiley.” When asked how to make an “Ahmet Special” hot grille sandwich, there is no hesitation. “Chicken shawarma with hummus, muhammara, tomato, turnip, cabbage and tzatiki. That’s how it is best!” He also admits the Chicken Pesto from the cold deli is very good, too.
Ahmet manages to bring a bit of Phoenicia home to his four-year-old niece, who loves Ulker Gazoz drinks and eagerly checks his bag daily for the yummy treat. Hoping to someday find a special lady to share his passion for food, family and Phoenicia, Ahmet will happily raise the next generation of Phoenicia shoppers. Come Downtown to meet him and discover all the things that make Ahmet smile.