Nusret Gokce might be one of social media's biggest success stories. You might not recognise the name immediately, but if I were to use his viral name – Salt Bae - things would instantly click into place. The Turkish butcher's theatrics, slick-back hair and impossibly tight t-shirts, have earned him more than 22.3 million Instagram followers and fully fledged internet celebrity status.
And Gokce has well and truly used that status to his advantage, embracing the persona and expanding his restaurant empire around it, with 14 Nusr-Et outposts around the globe.
The original, in his native Istanbul, was closely followed by his two UAE restaurants – one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. Today he has outposts in New York, Miami, Mykonos, Marmaris and Bodrum. By the end of this year, he will also have expanded Nusr-Et into London. By next year, he will have restaurants in Las Vegas, Boston, LA, Milan, Paris, and Madrid, Gokce revealed in an interview with The Times.
Global domination appears to be Gokce’s goal. As well as his steak empire, he plans to convert the Park Hyatt in Istanbul, which he just bought for $80 million, into a seven star hotel, and inspire a new generation of butchers.
"In the old days, nobody said that they were a butcher," he told The Times. "They would feel not good about it. In Turkey, you would ask a kid, 'What would you like to be?' He or she would say, 'A doctor, an engineer, astronaut.' Now everybody wants to be a butcher because of me. Now, if you ask a kid, they want to be Salt Bae. They see me as an idol. I'm an inspiration to a lot of people in a very short period of time."
Nusr-Et’s latest pop-up is in Saudi Arabia, where the restaurant has opened temporarily as part of the Jeddah Season Festival, although Gokce is yet to reveal if he plans to open a permanent restaurant in the kingdom.