Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard by now of Salt Bae, especially after the World Cup final, where, to everyone’s surprise, he managed to get access to the football field after the closing ceremony.
1. Who is Salt Bae?
Nusret Gökçe is a Turkish butcher and chef born in Paşalı, a village in the Erzurum Province of Türkiye, in 1983. Being one of five children in Kurdish family of few means, he was forced to leave school at the age of 12 to start helping his dad, who worked as a miner, provide for the family.
He worked as a butcher’s apprentice, wishing to one day open his own restaurant. After a learning trip to Argentina, he opened his first restaurant in Istanbul at the age of 27, which, he claims, turned over £4,500 on the first day. With investment from Turkish businessman Ferit Sahenk, he branched out in Ankara, Dubai and Doha, establishing the Nusr-Et chain of luxury steakhouses.
2. Becoming famous
Gökçe became famous after a video of himself sprinkling salt on stake by letting it slide on his arm went viral in January 2017. It was this video that brought the Turkish butcher the nickname of Salt Bae, with the hashtag #SaltBae starting trending on twitter.
Two days later, Bruno Mars tweeted a screenshot of the video, which boosted Gökçe’s internet presence that much more. Salt Bae quickly became a meme.
The new internet sensation drew the attention of many celebrities, who were mesmerised by the video and decided to see Gökçe in action. Leonardo DiCaprio visited his restaurant in Dubai less than a month later, in February 2017, which the chef, who by this time had embraced his thirsty nickname, promptly documented on social media.
Despite some pointing out his salt sprinkling is unsanitary – even if he thoroughly washes his arms all the way up, there is still a possibility of unwanted arm hair ending up on customers’ steak, Salt Bae kept on rising. He opened his first restaurant in the US the following year. He now has 22 restaurants in different locations, from New York to London to Dubai and other exotic locales, as well as owning a lucrative business selling meat, all of which bears the chef’s seal of quality.
After the closing ceremony of the World Cup, at Lusail Stadium in Qatar, Gokce was seen on the field taking pictures with the Argentinian players and even holding the trophy.
The footballers did not look very happy with the encounter and tried to avoid the butcher, especially Messi, who seemed particularly annoyed. In the end, the striker couldn’t get away without taking a picture with Gokce.
Besides disturbing the players and the still unresolved mystery of how he gained access to the field, he broke rules by holding the trophy, which, according to FIFA rules, only “a very select group of people” are allowed to touch. The football association has launched an investigation on “how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony” and stated that appropriate internal action will be taken.