If there was anyone destined to be a viral sensation, it’s Nusret Gokce, the guy behind the Salt Bae memes. You know the ones - with the guy in the tight T-shirt, flicking salt down his bent-at-the-elbow, muscular forearm to put the final bit of seasoning on his perfectly cooked steaks.
On January 7, Gokce posted a video of himself carving a steak and then sprinkling salt down his forearm onto that steak. Within 48 hours, the video had more than 2.4 million views – and Salt Bae was born.
But even before he became an Internet star, there was a decidedly A-list celebrity aura surrounding Gokce. His signature tight T-shirts and chiseled frame - along with jet black hair slicked back into a ponytail - makes him stand out in a crowd. But the passion that oozes out of him is what makes him so memorable. Gokce clearly loves his steaks and, when you step inside one of his restaurants, he’s going to make sure you do too.
Gokce opened his first Nusr-et Steakhouse in Turkey – a dream he’s had since his first restaurant job as a dishwasher – in 2010. In 2015, I dined in his Besiktas, Istanbul restaurant – tucked away in a trendy section of the city frequented by a chic, sophisticated crowd.
The restaurant was packed when we arrived; people were crowded around the bar – next to giant coolers filled with hanging meat – waiting for a table. Though we waited an hour to be seated (even with reservations), there was no complaining – by us or any of the other guests – in part, because of the theatrics happening in front of us.
The holding area for diners is directly in front of Nusr-et’s vast open kitchen. We had front row seats to Gokce and his team furiously grabbing, slapping, carving, cooking and chopping meat in every corner of the kitchen. I don’t remember seeing it then, but I have no doubt Gokce’s trademark salt-flicking move was already in full effect. The theatrical, urban vibe is evident throughout Nusr-et.
The waiters – all men – wear white T-shirts with black suspenders holding up jeans that are stylishly short and most, if not all, have a signature Turkish mustache, curled upward at the edges. From the food to the service to the meat-slapping theatrics, my experience at Nusr-et in Istanbul remains one of my best and most memorable meals.
Gokce has four Nusr-et Steakhouses in Turkey, one in Dubai in the restaurant village at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach and his most recently opened location in The Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. He has plans to open more locations across the globe.