The man behind the Salt Bae meme that swept the Internet this month is planning to open a restaurant in New York, he tells NBC News.
Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe confirmed Friday that he plans to open a steakhouse in the Big Apple, while the New York Post reported the restaurant would reside in the CBS building at 60 W. 53rd St. However a spokesperson for China Grill, which currently occupies the location, disputes the address, according to Eater.
Gökçe gained Internet fame when a video of him sprinkling salt on a steak with a peculiar flick of the wrist gained millions of views in a matter of weeks.
Gökçe said expanding to New York will mean whether or not he’s truly made it.
“It shows that I’m an international brand if I open up in New York,” Nusret said.
“In New York, there are many steakhouses. We would like to show that Nusr-et is different than the others in service, meat quality and connection with the customers,” he said.
Gökçe got the attention of celebrities like Rihanna and Ben Affleck, who wore the meme on T-shirts, and James Corden who dedicated a segment of the Late Late Show to the chef's unique salt-sprinkling style. An Australian artist even recreated the meme as a mural in Melbourne.
Gökçe explains that what’s attracted so many people to his restaurants is how he prepares his meal that was instigated through his Instagram food post.
“The shape of the meat and the taste of it starting from the top down is a part of me,” he explains. “All of my feelings are coming from inside of the meat down to when I put the salt onto the meat.”
Gökçe, 34, has seven steakhouses and burger joints in Turkey and Dubai, and is set to open a London location later this year.
He said he purposely put the hyphen in his name for “et” to stand out which means “meat” in Turkish. Nusret means victory.
Gökçe credits his work ethic for his success. He only went primary school up until he was 5 years old, and didn’t have the financial means to continue school, and said he grew up in poverty.
“Since I was 14, I worked more than 13 hours a day as a kitchen runner for a butcher,” he said. “My life hasn’t changed now. I still keep going to work from the morning until midnight.”
At age 27, he saved up and opened up his first restaurant in Istanbul with just 8 tables and 10 employees, and traveled to meat-exporting countries.
“I was always wishing and wishing to open up a restaurant,” he said.
“Without much money, I traveled to Argentina to see the meat industry and after that, I wanted to travel to the United States, but I was refused a visa 5 or 6 times, but I never gave up,” he said.
Nusret said he ended up receiving a 3-month visa to the U.S. back in late 2009.
Flash forward to 2017, Gökçe said he has 9 businesses and 600 employees, and employed his four brothers.
“I get all of my motivation from my customers,” he said.
If the Internet is any indication of his status, his video has gone viral with over 8.5 million views and counting and he’s being called “Salt Bae” on social media.
“Everybody is doing the same move,” he said.