Pizza Maker Grew Up Among Yalies, Is Now One of Them

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The college admissions process is both a stressful and exciting time for teens and parents. Between tests and essays, visits and deliberations – it is a journey to find the right fit that will allow a student to grow and flourish, and to get accepted to that school or schools. For many it is a difficult decision, though in at least one case, the perfect match came together like peppers and onions.

For all those families involved in or about to be involved in this admissions process, we wanted to share an inspiring story we came across out of New Haven, Connecticut. It is a heartwarming tale of family, achievement, and pizza.

Hacibey Catalbasoglu grew up among Yale students and the surrounding community. His father Kadir owns The Brick Oven, a local institution and favorite among students for late night pizza and all day socializing. As early as 11 or 12 Hacibey was in the restaurant, serving customers and even making a pie or two.

Hacibey‘s father, Kadir, is a Turkish immigrant, with a big heart and a very strong work ethic. At one time he owned three restaurants, now just the Brick Oven, which is open until 4 AM on weekends. He is a fixture of the community who seems to know everyone, and who pushes himself to be the best he can. Like all parents, he has always wanted the very best for his child. As is the case for many, this meant (at least in part) seeing his son at a top institution. “It was a dream kind of thing in my heart and my head that my son would go to the best school… Over the years we made a lot of friends” he said.

When it came time for Hacibey to apply to schools, Yale was his top choice. To see the way the community had embraced his family was touching to him. He had grown up serving the students and dreamed of someday being among them. His application essay was, according to one admissions dean, a “distinctive and memorable essay about serving pizza to Yale students.”

Hacibey got his wish, being among the 6.5% admitted to an incoming freshman class of fewer than 2,000 students. When the news came, the community embraced the Catalbasoglu family once again, with students literally singing their congratulations and many offering advice and help to enable a smooth transition into Yale life for 17 year old Hacibey.

We at Inspire Conversation extend our congratulations to Hacibey, and wish him an enjoyable and productive first year at Yale. His story shows that dreams do come true, through hard work and perseverance.

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