‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with a steak dinner in Turkey while his country starves back home
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was seen eating gourmet lunch in Istanbul
- Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce posted videos of the leader and wife dining
- Gokce is known as Salt Bae for his theatrical style of sprinkling salt on his steaks
- It has sparked outrage in Venezuela where millions struggle to get enough to eat
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has sparked fury in his impoverished homeland after dining on expensive steak prepared by celebrity chef ‘Salt Bae’ at a restaurant in Turkey.
Maduro was lavished with the gourmet lunch in Istanbul during a two-hour stop-off as he returned from a visit to China where he was trying to raise badly needed investment for his crisis-hit nation.
Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, who owns a chain of restaurants and is known as Salt Bae for his theatrical style of sprinkling salt on his steaks, posted videos and photos on his Instagram and Twitter pages showing Maduro and his wife, Cilia, dining.
But it sparked anger in Venezuela where millions struggle to get enough to eat and red meat is a rare luxury.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (right) has sparked fury in his impoverished homeland after dining on expensive steak at a ‘Salt Bae’ restaurant in Turkey
Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, who owns a chain of restaurants and is known as Salt Bae for his theatrical style of sprinkling salt on his steaks, posted videos and photos on his Instagram and Twitter pages showing Maduro and his wife, Cilia, dining. The chef is shown preparing steak at Maduro’s table
Maduro (right with the chef) was lavished with the gourmet lunch in Istanbul during a two-hour stop-off as he returned from a visit to China
In the videos, Maduro can be seen puffing on a cigar from a personalised box while he and first lady Cilia Flores watch owner Gokce, clad in dark aviator glasses and a bicep-busting T-shirt, rhythmically sway his hips while cutting into a juicy steak with a long knife.
At one point, Maduro tells fellow diners: ‘This is a once in a lifetime moment.’
Gokce, a worldwide restaurateur better known by his nickname Salt Bae, posted the videos on his Instagram account seen by some 16 million followers alongside photos of him serving clients like Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona and posing as Don Corleone from the ‘Godfather’ movies.
He later deleted the images and a thank you post to Maduro.
Maduro confirmed the visit in a state broadcast later on Friday. Gokce did not respond to an email seeking comment.
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Venezuela’s political opposition jumped on the meal as evidence of Maduro’s disconnect from the country’s crisis, which has caused over 2 million people to emigrate to escape widespread shortages of food and medicine.
Almost two-thirds of Venezuelans surveyed in a university study published in February said they had lost on average 11 kilograms (24 lbs) in body weight last year. Eighty-seven percent were assessed to live in poverty.
‘While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolas Maduro and Cilia enjoy one of the priciest restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people,’ tweeted opposition leader Julio Borges, the former head of Congress.
In one video, Maduro tells fellow diners, ‘This is a once in a lifetime moment,’ as Gokce dramatically slices steak for them by their table while swaying his hips. In another video, Maduro smokes a cigar (pictured) taken from a box with a plaque of his name
Even Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a fierce critic of Maduro, piled on, noting that Gokce also has a restaurant in Miami, home to the largest population of Venezuelan immigrants, most of them hostile to Maduro.
‘I don’t know who this weirdo (hash)Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,’ Rubio said on Twitter.
On social media, Venezuelans shared mocked-up images showing Gokce doing his trade-mark salt sprinkle pose above a skeletal child.
Maduro said he visited the restaurant for lunch during a two-hour stop in Istanbul.
‘Nusret attended to us personally. We were chatting, having a good time with him. … He loves Venezuela, he told me several times,’ Maduro said.
Maduro had traveled to Beijing in hope of securing fresh funds for his cash-starved socialist government, though he returned only having signed several deals involving Venezuela’s energy sector.
Gokce went viral in 2017 after posting videos of himself salting meat with a cobra-like maneuver.
He has over 15 million Instagram followers and has helped launch Nusr-Et restaurants, which charge several hundred dollars for some cuts of meat, in the Middle East, New York and Miami.
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