The lifecycle of the viral star is an often confusing phenomenon. The incredibly vast reach of social media has created the opportunity for just about anyone to go from just another guy or girl on the street to a household name in a matter of days, sometimes even over the course of 24 hours. While the dizzying heights of viral fame cause so many to almost immediately crash and burn and find themselves, cast aside and forgotten or worse, cancelled, few have been able to ride out the wave and come out the other side not only unscathed, but thriving. Yes, it’s fair to say, that few have rode the wave quite as well as everyone’s favourite handsome, charming, personal-space-encroaching chef Nusret Gökçe, who you might know as ‘Salt Bae’.
The enigmatic Turkish chef became an internet obsession in 2017 for his uniquely flamboyant seasoning technique coupled with his suave appearance and general mysterious aura. With his Instagram videos drawing views in the tens of millions and his face plastered on memes everywhere you looked, Gökçe used the sudden jolt of public attention as a springboard, expanding his already existing but small luxury steakhouse chain, Nusr-Et, to a multitude of new locations in Europe and the United States. His ostentatious style saw him once again go viral earlier this year, with customer videos taken from his Nusr-Et restaurant in Dallas showing Gökçe ‘feeding’ pieces of steak to male and female customers, which practically ignited a full on online referendum on masculinity in the US.
Just a few months have passed since that fascinating and hilarious discourse and Salt Bae is back in the news as he is looking towards the next phase of his culinary world domination; opening a Nusr-Et in UK. However, this time, Salt Bae has been put on the backfoot, as it appears that on this one, he has overplayed his hand. The restaurant, which opened on the 23rd of September just over the road from London’s famous Hype Park, has been forced to bear the brunt of a wave early criticism from British patrons, who have taken exception to the some of the restaurants absolutely outrageous menu prices. Swaths of tweets bemoaning extortionate charges have appeared since the restaurants opening night, one of which includes an image of a receipt which records a price of £630 (equivalent to around $1200 NZD) for a tomahawk steak.
Now, anyone who’s ever visited London might be quick to point out that you can’t exactly afford to dine out on pocket change in the great city. A fair point, but even with that considered, £11 (roughly $21.50) for a glass of Red Bull seems absolutely unthinkable, provided you don’t actually sprout a set of wings after knocking it back. It’s worth noting that Nusr-Et’s Miami outlet saw similar complaints for its exorbitant prices earlier this year, yet the restaurant has accumulated overall mostly positive ratings on TripAdvisor and OpenTable. It remains to be seen with the Brits will have a much of an appetite for Salt Bae’s distinctive brand of luxury dining as those down in South Beach and across the Middle East (where Nusr-Et initially planted its roots before the Gökçe’s meme fame), but it seems like at this point, only one thing is for certain; Salt Bae is no flash in the plan.
Top images credit to @nusr_et on Instagram.