Nusret Gokce, also known as Salt Bae, has become the talk of the town. The Turkish chef became the unlikely celebrity of the World Cup final in Qatar as he was able to gain access to the football field and mingle with the Argentinian players, some of whom were not so happy to be approached by the controversial Turkish man. He owns more than two dozen restaurants around the world and also owns a palace in Istanbul, his biggest and most valuable investment.
The viral video that made him famous was published in 2017, when Nusret was already a proud restaurant owner in his country. In just two years, he rose to a position that allowed him to invest €40 million in the purchase of his own hotel. The purchase took place in 2019, which culminated in the acquisition of the hotel from the Park Hyatt chain, located in the Mackas Palace in central Istanbul. The 1922-building was designed by Giulio Mongeri, a Turkish architect who was inspired by Milanese palaces.
Inside the building live 90 luxury rooms, created in 2008, when Park Hyatt took over the site and turned it into a hotel. Salt Bae’s arrival also promoted the creation of one of his Nusr-et restaurants on the second floor – and, of course, around the hotel are numerous photographs of him in his usual pose.
One of the giant suites is for Nusret’s exclusive use, known to have belonged to Abdulhak Hamid Tarhan, one of Turkey’s great historical poets and writers. Sleeping there costs a minimum of $350 per night. The presidential suite, for example, is an impressive 250 square meters, with a dining room, guest bathroom, and a view of the Bosphorus. The diplomatic suite, half as large, is no less luxurious, with a sauna, a huge balcony, and a whirlpool bath.
Located in the Nisantasi district, it is the starting point for a visit to the streets where you will find the most luxurious and expensive stores in the city. But if you prefer not to leave the hotel, you can linger at the spa or even the outdoor pool if the weather permits.
Besides Nusr-Et, the hotel also an impressive wine bar with a wine cellar that extends along a wide illuminated wall and a restaurant that bets on contemporary Turkish cuisine.
Since 2017, Salt Bae has become a celebrity known around the world, mainly thanks to the videos of footballers, politicians and public figures who come to meet him to participate in viral videos in which they are fed by the Turkish man with sunglasses. It is estimated that his London restaurant alone has raised, in 2021 and with three months of operation, nearly eight million euros.
He has 22 restaurants in different locations, from New York to London to Dubai and other exotic locales. Salt Bae also owns a lucrative business selling meat, all of which bears the chef’s seal of quality.
Little is known about his other investments, but he has properties in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the garage, a super collection of cars, including Rolls Royce and Lamborghinis, contrasts with his humble origins.
From rags to riches
What few people know about Nusret Gokce is that the chef who sprinkles salt on food using a peculiar gesture, now a successful businessman, came from poverty. Born into a Turkish family of humble Kurdish origins, he was forced to leave school before high school. His parents could not afford to keep him in school.
So he went to work in the butcher’s shop in Bostanci market, where he arrived as an apprentice. He learned the craft among the masters, under punishing schedules: one could work almost 18 hours in one day.
From the butcher shop he jumped to a middle ground: a restaurant with a butcher shop concept, where he arrived in 2007. But Gokce wanted more and decided to travel to one of the countries where meat is revered.
A three month vacation in Argentina, between butcher shops and restaurants, gave him a new perspective. Rumor has it that he worked for free just to gain experience. Back in Turkey, he decided he would try his luck in New York. From internship to internship, many unpaid, he accumulated valuable experience to fulfill his dream of creating his own restaurant in his country.
Unemployed and back in Istanbul, he needed the help of an old friend who became an investor. The doors opened, Gokce served his meat, and it was a success. In less than half a year, he paid off the debt.
In 2012, an investment group helped him internationalize the Nusr Et chain. And those who have a few hundred Euros to spend can experience it live, whether in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jeddah, Mykonos, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and soon London.