“Empires,” says the Canadian professor Gad Saad, “implode from within due to their own excesses”. So it went with the fall of Rome, and so it could with the mighty empire of Salt Bae, the Turkish meat despot who rules over a landmass so large the sun never sets on it. Nusret Gökçe, whose round sunglasses and camp salt sprinkling technique catapulted him to viral success in 2017, now owns 20 branches of his Nusr-Et steak houses and burger restaurants in the US, the UK, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Greece, and his native Turkey.
But, as Gökçe, 40, is perhaps learning, his supply lines have been stretched too thin, and it is beginning to threaten the stability of his sirloin empire. Salt Bae Burger, a Park Avenue outlet that opened in 2020, has recently shut amid widespread criticism. It offered luxe fare — $100 milkshakes, $100 burgers wrapped in gold leaf — but was derided by restaurant reviewers who said the spot had “all the charm of an airplane hangar”. The New York Post, the voice of the city, said the restaurant was “Public Rip-off No 1”. Things had gone even worse in Boston, where a couple of years before, Gökçe had opened and closed a restaurant within a week due to health code violations.
Falling out of love with Salt Bae: the closure of his Manhattan joint was met with jubilation by New Yorkers
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