Staff Spotlight: Mali Yilmaz, Manager, South End

Ten years ago, Mali Yilmaz left his home country of Turkey to start a new life in the United States. At the time, he spoke very little English but immediately enrolled in ESL classes so that he could prepare himself for graduate school. Mali was a physical education teacher in Turkey but had dreams of working in business.

“While going to school part time, I decided to take a job at the nearby pizzeria,” Mali says. “That pizzeria was the Upper Crust in Cambridge, where I quickly became part of a family.”

For seven years, Mali worked as a driver, making sure each delicious pie was delivered with perfection. In 2013, he was promoted to manager of the Upper Crust in the South End, where he has worked ever since.

“I love my job because I get to meet so many different people,” Mali went on to say. “Our staff is very diverse and everyone brings their unique culture to the job. Our customers are also very diverse—Upper Crust is a favorite of police officers, construction workers, business people and college students. I learn something new every day.”

Mali’s dreams of working in business have come to fruition at Upper Crust. “I’ve been able to continue my studies part time while still making time for my family,” the father of two says.

In March 2018, Upper Crust CEO RJ Dourney announced a new joint venture for the Beverly Hills pizzeria, where Mali and Shawn Shenefield, former Operations Director for Upper Crust, will own a majority stake in the restaurant, partnering with the ownership of the Upper Crust chain. Through this exciting partnership, Shawn will relocate to Beverly Hills while Mali will remain in Boston, running the South End pizzeria and helping to grow the company.

“Shawn was my first ever manager when I started as a delivery driver,” Mali says. “It’s really special how we’ve come full circle and are going to expand the Upper Crust family on the west coast.”

Here are other questions we thought you’d want to ask Mali.

What’s your favorite Upper Crust pizza?

Mali: I really love our classic margherita pizza, the Harvard Street pizza, because our fresh basil and fresh mozzarella are second to none.

What would you tell someone who’s visiting an Upper Crust Pizzeria for the first time?

Mali: Anyone who walks in our door immediately notices the open-kitchen that’s part of our warm and welcoming atmosphere. If you’re unsure what to order, just ask one of our staff at the front counter. They can help make recommendations and will do everything they can to make sure your Upper Crust experience is extraordinary.

What’s your favorite Upper Crust memory?

Mali: Wow, there are so many great memories with Upper Crust. But most recently, I think I would say the Boston Pizza Festival was a weekend that I won’t soon forget. For two days, on Boston City Hall Plaza, we met thousands of locals who love everything to do with pizza. We sold slices of some of our favorite pizzas nonstop for 12 hours. It was amazing.

What’s something people might not know about you?

Mali: I’ve trained in martial arts my entire life. In Turkey, I won a few national taekwondo titles, and I was a World Taekwondo Championships semifinalist.