Nusret Gökçe, or as we all know him, Salt Bae, who is going to turn forty this year has amassed a net worth of $75 million as of February 2023. The Turkish butcher who has become somewhat of an internet meme, has a movie-worthy rags-to-riches story. His name, Salt Bae, is a reference to his iconic style of seasoning steaks with salt. What is his story? How did a butcher’s apprentice from a small Turkish village build a steak-empire? Let’s find out.
Salt Bae – early life
Salt Bae’s real name is Nusret Gökçe. He was born on 9th August, 1983 in a Turkish village called Pasali. His father’s name is Faik Gökçe, he was a mineworker. Nusret’s mother is Fatma Gökçe. Nusret grew up with three brothers Özgür Gökçe, Erman Gökçe, and Ugur Gökce. They are all Turkish chefs and restaurateurs now.
Nusret’s early life was marked by poverty which forced him out of school at the age of 10 or 11. He started working as a butcher’s apprentice. He expressed in an interview that it was since then that he had developed the love for meat which guided the path of his life.
Salt Bae’s struggle to make it big
Between 2007 and 2010 Nusret traveled to different countries including Argentina and the USA and worked in some of the top restaurants across those countries for free. All he wanted was the experience of working in the kitchens of luxury diners and steak houses.
He spent the last of his resources along with a 7000 Turkish lira from a credit card to sustain himself during that period of unpaid apprenticeship. In 2010 he felt ready to start his own steak house. He felt he’d learnt what it takes to be a chef and run a restaurant.
How did Salt Bae open his first restaurant?
Nusret Gökçe did not come from a lot of money and he had spent all his savings by traveling to different countries. Then, 2010, Nusret started his restaurant brand, Nusr-Et – the name is a clever play on his own name. Et means meat in the Turkish language. But the real question is, how did he finance his venture?
He seeked help from Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk, who helped him build multiple restaurants in middle-eastern cities.
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Salt Bae’s empire of steak
After building his first restaurant in Istanbul, Nusret went on to build a chain of luxury steak-houses with branches in Ankara, Bodrum, Marmaris, Istanbul, Dubai, Anu Dhabi, Doha, Jeddah, Miami, New York, Mykonos, Boston, Dallas, Beverly Hills, and London. Of course, this multi-continental empire wasn’t built in one day.
Even then, 12 years is not a lot of time to build a food chain like this across continents. Currently, the famous Salt Bae is in the process of building a restaurant in Riyadh, the capital of the UAE.
Salt Bae Net Worth, year-on-year
|Net Worth in 2023||$75 Million|
|Net Worth in 2022||$69 Million|
|Net Worth in 2021||$64 Million|
|Net Worth in 2020||$58 Million|
|Net Worth in 2019||$52 Million|
|Net Worth in 2018||$48 Million|
The becoming of Salt Bae
In January 2017, a video of Nusret ‘suavely’ mincing meat and sprinkling salt on it over his elbow went viral and registered 10 million views. Over night, this restaurateur became a meme and slowly an icon. The internet named him Salt Bae, and that’s the name he does business under now.
Salt Bae’s popularity grew like wild-fire and his joints started receiving numerous celebrity customers from Hollywood stars, to sports icons, and political figures. His steak houses are incredibly expensive but the interest in his unique brand of hospitality seems to attract a lot of visitors.
Salt Bae – controversy and criticism
Salt Bae has anything but a clean slate when it comes to controversies. There is quite a list of controversies that he has triggered. Let’s look at them one by one, as chronologically as possible.
In December 2017, a photo of Salt Bae mimicking a photo of former Cuban President Fidel Castro taken in 2016 triggered severe criticism.
In September 2018, a failed fire show at Nusr-Et steakhouse in Istanbul resulted in Czech internet personality Týnuš Třešničková getting 35% total body surface area burns. This is not the only instance where a guest suffered burns at Nusr-Et, apparently small burns are quite common.
In 2019, four of Salt Bae’s former employees accused him of stealing their tips. Allegedly, Salt Bae fired them when they started asking questions about the tips. The case went to trial and Salt Bae settled it by paying $230,000. However, he has denied the allegations and said that the employees were fired for poor performance and their accusation was a way of getting back at their employer.
In 2020, his Boston restaurant was shut down for violating Covid restrictions. Then in 2021, a UK branch came under severe criticism for charging 37,000 pounds for a meal.
To top all of these off, Salt Bae made quite a scene during the award ceremony after the 2022 men’s football worldcup final. He intruded the celebrations of the Argentine team. He even lifted the trophy exercising a right reserved only for the winners and the heads of states. After that night he was expressly banned from the 2023 US Open Cup finals through a tweet.
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Salt Bae restaurant reviews
If you strictly talk about food, Nusr-Et steak houses have acquired a terrible reputation. They are allegedly overpriced, their hamburgers are overcooked, and the food is over-salted in general. These opinions are from food critics who write for The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Nevertheless, if you are more interested in the dinner theater aspect of luxury steak houses, complete with exuberant hospitality, a Nusr-Et joint might be your cup of tea.
You have to take the character of Salt Bae with a pinch of salt. He is a food entertainer and sometimes he does exceed his bounds. Celebrities love him, food critics detest him, and we are just amused by the million-dollar story of this Turkish Butcher.