You created Salt Bae, and now you have to eat his nasty food
February 13, 2018 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae for a 2017 viral video which featured him slicing and salting a tomahawk steak in a somewhat unconventional manner, has a spendy new location in midtown Manhattan. Some early diners have not been impressed, but Salt Bae dgaf; he's sprinkled salt for Simone Biles and David Beckham and posed with Diddy.
"One does not visit Salt Bae for steak alone any more than one goes to Mass for the wafers. One visits Salt Bae like one kisses the Torah as it passes or touches the barnacled-skin of blue whale in the water as it drifts by: to connect to the infinite. One visits Salt Bae to see for oneself that that the mythic creatures of the internet also walk among us, that the endlessly replicating realm of memes can include us, too. In a world where nebulous social media influencers get paid thousands of dollars for a post, is it really absurd to pay a mere $500 for Salt Bae to slip into our feed? No, it is human. And humans are idiots."
posted by uncleozzy (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Everything about this sounds miserable.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:05 AM on February 13 [19 favorites]


No salt for you!
posted by thelonius at 6:18 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]




“I shivered in those
solitudes
when I heard
the voice
of
the salt
in the desert.”
― Pablo Neruda
posted by Fizz at 6:25 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I knew guys like him in culinary school and in restaurants. I hated them then and I hate him now.

Okay, hate may be a strong word. Visceral dislike. I viscerally dislike him.
posted by cooker girl at 6:34 AM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Welcome to Bae-vortown.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:39 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


Everything about this sounds miserable.

Which, I think, sort of makes it delightful in a Black Mirror dystopian sort of way: a thoroughly miserable experience enabled and perpetuated by the most shallow, facile use of the literal supercomputers that many of us carry in our pockets.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:40 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Everything's gotta be a thing now.
posted by enn at 6:47 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


"The flagship of the meat fleet"

How long had the writer been waiting to use that one?

"Imagine an Arby's transformed by Jeff Koons into an 18th birthday party for a Saudi prince. Our food was so oversalted that we used our Metrocard to cut up the Maldon flakes into lines on our table."

No shade like restaurant review shade
posted by Caxton1476 at 6:48 AM on February 13 [29 favorites]


"Next to us another waiter was preparing the beef carpaccio ($30), which involved damp slices of meat spread across a plate, pounding cheese crackers with a knife, rolling up the meat, slicing it like a California roll, and then squirting balsamic all over it."

I... what? This sounds horrifying.
posted by telepanda at 7:05 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what people expected. I give the guy credit for capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame, but there was no reason to think he'd be good. Also, that's great that he has gloves on now, but he's still bouncing the salt off of his forearms. Gross.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 7:07 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


person sees something strange in real life, takes a video

people on social media are delighted because the subject is normatively physically attractive, understands that it is, and emphasizes it

people on social media share it widely both in earnest and as an absurdity in the same way one shares Tim & Eric episodes

subject is somewhat less humble/self-reflective/insightful as Tim & Eric and capitalizes on this fame

traditional media approaches this new media sensation, doesn't understand why people enjoy this because it approaches everything in pretentious seriousness

traditional media concludes that it hates it because it is not traditionally successful and also get off of our lawn you idiot children, how dare you make a mockery of the cultural institution of cooking

social media ire builds because absurd subject is an obvious grubby capitalist and is also bad at the job he makes look sexy. underlying acquiescence to the cultural institution of cooking resumes

????

life goes on
posted by runt at 7:10 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Hurm.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:17 AM on February 13


Imagine an Arby's transformed by Jeff Koons into an 18th birthday party for a Saudi prince.

how do I get an invite to this? I mean, other than going to Salt Bae's restaurant. I just want to enjoy a magnificient train wreck spectacle without shelling out $500.
posted by Fig at 7:18 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


It's a little relieving to hear that $320 for a dinner for two is still considered a bit much even in NY.
posted by Laotic at 7:20 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I just want to enjoy a magnificient train wreck spectacle

2016, 2017, 2018....
posted by Fizz at 7:21 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I wonder about the economics of this. He has to have backers, they have to realize at some level that the Salt Bae thing is a spectacle that’s going to last 9ish months. Is the hope that they’ll then be able to turn the restaurant into something mature, or are smaller investors fleecing bigger investors and some people are going to make a bit of money and others are going to lose a lot when this thing goes south.

Is this some elaborate tax write-off scheme? A ploy to start some kind of hellish Chippendales/Outback Steakhouse crossover where there are many salt baes hovering at every table and salt is inches thick on the floor like peanut shells at dive bars?
posted by mikesch at 7:29 AM on February 13 [12 favorites]


> "... is it really absurd to pay a mere $500 for Salt Bae to slip into our feed?"

Y - yes?
posted by kyrademon at 7:37 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


the job he makes look sexy

You and I have very different definitions of "sexy."
posted by cooker girl at 7:42 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


>Everything’s gotta be a thing now.

In a culture almost completely constructed of pseudo-events it makes sense that we would start to construct our lives accordingly, but yeah it’s regrettable.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 7:45 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: But yeah, it’s regrettable.
posted by notyou at 7:48 AM on February 13


Will he serve tide pods as an amuse bouche? So we can just bundle our memes together and toss them out in bulk?
posted by cacophony at 8:05 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


This is like finding out that 2 Girls 1 Cup opened a frozen yogurt place.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:14 AM on February 13 [43 favorites]


"acquiescence to the cultural institution of cooking" = retaining the belief that food should taste good
posted by neroli at 8:17 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


So, at this point the reality script writers aren't just drunk and hitting the office scotch, right?

I think it's safe to assume they've been hitting the Robotussin and NyQuil and they're now throwing glowstick raves in the janitorial closet with the lights out, right?
posted by loquacious at 8:24 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Huh.

Always interesting to come across the real life inspiration for SO MANY MEMES months after they'd flushed out the internet ecosystem.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:27 AM on February 13


There's always a bit of a performance aspect to fine dining, but this smacks of, I dunno, people quoting Monty Python at each other. Imagine if Emeril had to come out and yell "BAM!" at you when your entree arrived. Might be good for a laugh once (feel free to unpack that statement as you like), but it doesn't seem like it would lead to repeat business.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:40 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


A ploy to start some kind of hellish Chippendales/Outback Steakhouse crossover where there are many salt baes hovering at every table and salt is inches thick on the floor like peanut shells at dive bars?

Given the location, they could probably run with this concept for a few years on the tourist trade. Maybe get a dozen Salt Baes to dance on the bar every so often, end the performance with a salt cannon, sell T-shirts that proclaim you went to New York City and got A-Salted.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:46 AM on February 13 [14 favorites]


You and I have very different definitions of "sexy."

we probably do but your specific contention here is with society and Instagrammers, not me. I'm the wallflower who wants to be popular (ie a meme) but can't because he's too self-conscious (ie I don't actually want to be a meme)
posted by runt at 8:58 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I wonder about the economics of this.

He actually has a chain of (apparently?) successful steakhouses in Turkey and the UAE, which he established prior to becoming a living meme, with similar menus, pricing, and service -- including the blowtorched meat sushi and the steak-slicing routine. I remember reading a writeup of one of the UAE locations, prior to his US launch; evidently the steak was pretty good and there were plans to branch out with London and European locations. I don't know whether the quality is in fact worse at the NYC location, but honestly, overpriced and bland food is pretty typical for 'experience' driven / clubstaurant-style dining, and even without the meme I could see a similar concept being pitched and accepted. The meme buzz might have helped sell it, but I doubt it was the sole deciding factor. Most restaurants fail or change concept, so the short shelf-life of a meme wouldn't necessarily be a dealbreaker. The restaurant business is real weird, and social media is only making it weirder.
posted by halation at 8:58 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


traditional media approaches this new media sensation, doesn't understand why people enjoy this because it approaches everything in pretentious seriousness

traditional media concludes that it hates it because it is not traditionally successful and also get off of our lawn you idiot children, how dare you make a mockery of the cultural institution of cooking

social media ire builds because absurd subject is an obvious grubby capitalist and is also bad at the job he makes look sexy. underlying acquiescence to the cultural institution of cooking resumes


Or a guy who overstayed his 15 minutes of fame opened an overpriced, apparently bad restaurant. It's weird to frame this as Traditional Media Just Doesn't Get It. This is a new iteration of an old, old story. There's a long line of people who become inexplicably famous for an instant, cash in on that fame, and then instantly burn out.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:05 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


opened an overpriced, apparently bad restaurant

he's opened 13 restaurants, one of which Timeout has reviewed twice, Bloomberg once, and Eater once and one of those reviews contextualized it with the Cronut guy and talked about the economics of that and why that was successful (because he recognized his viralness was temporary and just wanted to make good food which is normative cooking establishment talk 101, see Paula Deen)

this isn't some guy who has an absurdly deep singing voice, got viral, and then kept doing it until he got on a Pepsi commercial and literally nothing else (rip Tay Zonday)
posted by runt at 9:10 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I read the story in the Times last week and I wasn't entirely sure if it was satire. Being unfamiliar with his memes, I mean he just wears sunglasses and throws salt, right? I am still fairly certain that at some point when reading about this I am going to get Rickrolled.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:10 AM on February 13


upon reflective spot-checking, it appears that Tay Zonday has actually made quite a career for himself by after going viral and good on him
posted by runt at 9:16 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


traditional media concludes that it hates it because it is not traditionally successful and also get off of our lawn you idiot children, how dare you make a mockery of the cultural institution of cooking

Flogging "traditional media" is very meme-worthy right now. If you can't build a restaurant on that, I'll bet you could start a puppet show.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:27 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Hey, don't blame me! I never heard of this guy before!

He sounds like one those 80s pop stars who started his band in art school. Except this one does steaks instead of videos.
posted by Naberius at 9:40 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Tay Zonday is still alive and well, they randomly followed me on Twitter other day and I got really excited.
posted by cilantro at 9:48 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Flogging "traditional media" is very meme-worthy right now.

see I thought it was meme-worthy back when people on the lefty left (like Dem Now! or Common Dreams) were criticizing the MSM for not being progressive enough

how the wheel turns
posted by runt at 9:52 AM on February 13


Anyone who thinks it's gross that this guy slices and salts steak with his bare hands should never look in an actual working kitchen.

That being said, doing it after walking around a dining room and shaking clients' hands is pretty disgusting.

But yeah, most of what this guy serves you could get at a Morton's or a Ruth's Chris with better quality and less fuss, and some of it (the carpaccio?!) seems simply inexplicable.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:19 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Imagine an Arby's transformed by Jeff Koons into an 18th birthday party for a Saudi prince.

Stefon? We miss you! Please come back....
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:26 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Wait, there was a guy in that video? That steak... [emoji of smiling face with hearts for eyes]
posted by Samizdata at 10:34 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks it's gross that this guy slices and salts steak with his bare hands should never look in an actual working kitchen.

From the article that halation linked:
According to article 81 of New York City’s health code, bare hand contact with food that is “ready to eat” is prohibited. Because the meats Salt Bae caresses tableside do not get reheated, gloves are required in order to comply with this rule.
Bare hands in the kitchen before cooking the meat, fine. In the dining room after cooking it, not fine.
posted by Lexica at 10:45 AM on February 13


I was vaguely aware of this meme, but I just watched the original video. All I could think of was "lousy knife technique". And that's the only opinion I have on this whole mess.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:49 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


All the fun police in this thread made me go from "meh on Salt Bae" status to LIFE IS SHORT AND PEOPLE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT WITH THEIR MONEY IN THIS HARSH CRUEL WORLD *SOB* status.
posted by capricorn at 10:51 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


This sounds like a Seinfeld episode.
posted by slogger at 10:55 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what people expected. I give the guy credit for capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame, but there was no reason to think he'd be good.

As has been mentioned upthread, the dude was already a successful chain restauranteur in Turkey. I remember hearing at one point that he had actually been planning to expand Nusr-Et in to the US for a little while and the whole meme just accelerated the timeline; my guess would be the issues have less to do with “silly meme man starts restaurant and fails” and more to do with “experienced chef tries to rush-open a restaurant in one of the toughest markets on earth; issues arise accordingly”.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if in a few months’ time, once they’ve ironed out the kinks, it’s a solid steakhouse (though I’m not about to pay a few hundred bucks to find out).
posted by Itaxpica at 11:16 AM on February 13


The NYT review was surprisingly evenhanded, given how critical some of the other reviews were. There does seem to be a consensus that the smoked Negroni is to be avoided, though.
posted by TedW at 11:44 AM on February 13


about 2 years ago we ate at this place in Ancona, Italy with some friends (I didn't find any English lang listing)

It was quite an experience!! they roll this cart out with a huge slab of cow on it, a cleaver and a scale. you indicate how thick a cut you want and they chop it off right there WHACK WHACK of the cleaver as slivers of raw beef going flying and splatter the floor.

then they take it away and cook it up just right for you. it was wild. I can't imagine something like that happening in the USA.
posted by supermedusa at 12:54 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Israel has a steakhouse mini-chain called Rak Basar (“Only Meat”) which isn’t quite so visceral and immediate, but you do order at a gigantic butcher counter where you pick the specific piece of meat you want out of a display case, and it is then cooked and brought to you.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:32 PM on February 13


I guess in the spirit of the traditional "I-can-make-this-at-home" comment that comes up in restaurant topics: I'm sure we could buy a pair of mirrored shades, a white undershirt, a wig, a cut of steak, and some sea salt and be our own Salt Bae.
posted by FJT at 2:31 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I really could not take my eyes off that steak. I wanted that. I will be my own salt bae come warmer BBQ weather. That steak and that bone, those small pieces of meat releasing, perfectly cubed, along the left side hell yeah! The carver was excellent, his personal traits did not distract from the matter at hand.
posted by Oyéah at 4:39 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


My local specialty market sells tomahawk steaks all summer long. I’m sure the grumpy old guys at the butcher shop would cut me one too, but they’re always in the case at this place.

I’ve thought about buying one; they really are visually impressive. The per pound price is obscene though, given that you’re also buying a bone the size of a cello bow.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:35 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Now I want to make some fairy bread for my kids, just so I can be "hundreds and thousands bae".
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:32 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


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