Nusret Gökçe ([nusˈɾet ɟøcˈtʃe]), nicknamed Salt Bae, is a Turkish butcher, chef, and restaurateur, who owns Nusr-Et, a chain of luxury steak houses. His technique for preparing and seasoning meat became an Internet meme.
Gökçe in 2018
Gökçe was born in Erzurum, Turkey, to a Kurdish family. His father was a mineworker. The family's finances forced him to leave school in the 6th grade to work as a butcher's apprentice in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul.
Gökçe has been involved with charitable work, such as building a school in his hometown of Erzurum.
Gökçe became more widely known through a series of viral Internet videos and memes from January 2017 which show him "suavely" cutting meat and sprinkling salt.
His fame came from a viral video, "Ottoman Steak", posted on 7 January 2017 on his restaurant's Twitter account. It was viewed 10 million times on Instagram, after which he was dubbed "Salt Bae" because of his peculiar way of sprinkling salt: dropping it from his fingertips to his forearm, and then falling onto the dish. Due to the viral exposure gained from this post, Gökçe's profile has expanded enormously and he has served a wide range of celebrities and politicians from around the world.
Gökçe visited several countries including Argentina and the United States between 2007 and 2010, where he worked in local restaurants for free, in order to gain experience as a cook and a restaurateur. After his return to Turkey, Gökçe opened his first restaurant in Istanbul in 2010 and later opened a Dubai restaurant in 2014.
The dishes served at Gökçe's establishments have received mixed reviews and have been described as "overpriced". Early professional reviews in 2018 of his New York City steakhouse were generally negative. The New York Post's Steve Cuozzo called the restaurant "Public Rip-off No. 1" and Joshua David Stein writing in GQ called the steak mundane and the hamburgers overcooked. However, from an entertainment standpoint, reviews were more positive. Eater's Robert Sietsema states, "If you are intent on judging New York's new branch of Nusr-Et only as a steakhouse, you'll probably be disappointed ... If, on the other hand, you appraise the place as dinner theater, you will find it satisfying—but only if Salt Bae is in the house".
In September 2018, Gökçe was criticized by Marco Rubio and Miami city council after Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro dined at Gökçe's Istanbul restaurant, with Rubio calling Gökçe a "weirdo".
As of 2020[update], Nusr-Et has branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; Doha in Qatar; Ankara, Bodrum, Istanbul and Marmaris in Turkey; Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Mykonos in Greece; Miami, New York and Boston in the US.
In November 2019, four of Gökçe's former employees accused him of getting a share of their tips. They added that they were fired from his New York restaurant when they tried to ask questions about the tips. A trial was set to take place to investigate the issue, before which Gökçe reached a settlement with his former employees and paid them $230,000. As to why he had fired them, he said: "I was not satisfied with the performance of the four employees. ... Since they were fired, they acted with the feeling of ‘look, what we are going to do to you’ and put forward these tip allegations."
In late September 2020, his restaurant in Boston was ordered closed by public health officials several days after it opened due to violations of COVID-19 safety standards. However, by early October, the restaurant had already been reopened.
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- Salt Bae Could Be Planting His Second NYC Restaurant Near Union Square Archived 19 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine Carla Vianna, Eater, 18 December 2018
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- "'It's a disgrace:' Miami lawmakers condemn 'Salt Bae' over serving Venezuela's Maduro". The Miami Herald. 27 September 2018. Archived from the original on 3 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
- "'Salt bae' denies accusation of taking share of employees' tips". Hürriyet Daily News. Istanbul. 12 November 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
- "Restaurant opened by 'Salt Bae' in Boston closed for virus violations | Boston.com". www.boston.com. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
- Kuschner, Erin (1 October 2020). "Salt Bae's restaurant has reopened. Here's what to know about its first two weeks in business". Boston.com. Retrieved 29 October 2020.