Who Is The Salt Bae?

Nurset Gökçe, affectionately known across social media as the "Salt Bae," is the internet's latest obsession. From the way he stylishly sprinkles coarse salt over his tender cuts of meat—allowing the crystals to ricochet seductively off his chiseled forearms—to the way he expertly carves up his culinary creations, there's much to love about this Turkish hunk. For starters, he seemingly only wears sunglasses, tight pants, and V-neck T-shirts as he passionately prepares his plates. "The shape of the meat and the taste of it starting from the top down is a part of me," he explained on Instagram (via NBC News). "All of my feelings are coming from inside of the meat down to when I put the salt onto the meat."

As Gökçe continues to cook up viral videos and spawn memes, the world is craving authentic information about this man's professional and private life—even Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio has a thing for the Salt Bae. Well, pull up a chair, because we're serving up all the mouth-watering facts you need to know about this famous foodie.

He's from humble beginnings

Despite achieving international notoriety and blowing up recently in the States, Gökçe's success grew from humble beginnings and a simple dream. According to CNN, he was one of five kids born into a working class family in rural Turkey. "One friend says that Gökçe got a job as a dishwasher when he was younger, working long hours but never giving up on his dream of running his own restaurant," reported CNN. "He began making friends with local customers and experimenting with his own dishes. When folks kept coming back for more, the story goes, they'd specifically ask for Gökçe's specials. Word began to spread, and slowly, the legend was born."

Not bad for a boy that had to drop out of school by age 5. "Since I was 14, I worked more than 13 hours a day as a kitchen runner for a butcher," he told NBC News. "My life hasn't changed now. I still keep going to work from the morning until midnight." But work now includes a chain of steakhouses called Nusr-et with locations throughout the Middle East.

"People see me as uncouth," Gokce told the Hurriyet Daily News, yet he insists his flare does not spring from a place of ego or arrogance. "I am the son of a mine worker. My father and mother do not know literacy. I [could not] go to school due to financial difficulties." Through his apprenticeship with a butcher, meat became his "passion" and his ticket out of poverty.

He mastered his craft through traveling

At age 16, Gökçe left his apprenticeship and set out to travel the world in hopes of learning more about farms, butcher shops, and restaurants. "Very brave for a guy who'd never left the country and didn't speak any foreign languages," Turkish food writer Cemre Narin told Gourmet Traveller.

"I was always wishing and wishing to open up a restaurant," Gökçe told NBC News, and after years of saving and studying, the moment finally arrived when, at age 27, he launched his first eatery in Istanbul, Turkey. It had only had eight tables and 10 employees.

He's building a meat empire

Gökçe's dream grew from one small restaurant in Istanbul to a massive meat empire. According to NBC News, he leads a whopping nine businesses with some 600 total employees; locations include Dubai and Abu Dhabi and plans for Riyadh, Berlin, London, and New York.

"It shows that I'm an international brand if I open up in New York," he told NBC. "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." The New York Post reported that Gökçe's highly anticipated eatery will open in September 2017 in Manhattan. It will feature a butcher shop out front with a kitchen and dining area in the rear. The Salt Bae isn't launching this Big Apple business alone. The Post said Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk and New York real estate moguls Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen are also involved with the Midtown steakhouse.

He's got celebrities eating out of the palm of his hand

Salt Bae videos, merchandise, and memes have grown so trendy that even A-list stars such as Rihanna and Ben Affleck have been photographed wearing T-shirts featuring his signature swagger, and British soccer pro Danny Welbeck mimicked Gökçe's salt sprinkling sexiness during a match. The rich and famous are also flocking to his restaurants in hopes of tasting one of his carefully crafted meats. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, and Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio have all tasted a Gökçe meat masterpiece.

The man's even got his own mural in Melbourne, Australia. Artist Lushsux painted a giant portrait on the side of a building depicting, you guessed it, Gökçe workin' that sodium chloride. The man, the meat, the legend is not taking his sudden success for granted. He jumped on Instagram to express his gratitude to the artist and to supporters of the mural. "I am so grateful for the love from all over the world. Thank you for your support everyone," he said, and then, as if to prove he's still a man of the people, Gokce gave out his email address. That's right, the Salt Bae shared his email...with the world!

He's picky about his meat

Let there be no mistake about it, Gökçe takes his job very seriously and reportedly goes to great lengths to ensure top-notch quality, presentation, and taste. "There is a strict selection process," a Nusr-et restaurant manager told Munchies, "We have our own animals and Mr. Nusret selects only the finest meat. From five tons, he might choose a little as 100 kilograms to serve in our restaurants. We are looking for the absolutely best quality and if we sourced meat elsewhere, maybe it would not be good enough." To Gökçe, meat is his love language. The Salt Bae told the Hurriyet Daily News that despite linguistic barriers, he can "communicate with people through meat."

His body is his temple

Excessive amounts of salt and red meat can lead to a bevy of health problems, including heart disease and high blood pressure, but judging by his workout posts on social media, the salt bae has struck a balance. Catch him online running on high-end treadmills, jumping rope, and theatrically diving into luxurious bodies of water. The man clearly works his rump roast off to stay fit which, at this point, may be more important than his food because there are millions of people who like his work, but few who are actually able to dine at one of his restaurants.

His family is important

If there's one thing Gökçe may love more than meat, it's his family. According to NBC News, he employs all four of his brothers. On the romance front, it's unclear if this thirty-something is single, married, or perhaps even a salt daddy. At the time of this writing, Gökçe does not seem to have shared much about his love life with the press, though that hasn't stopped his hoards of fans from speculating. After Gökçe posted a photo on Instagram surrounded by nine unidentified kids, one follower commented: "This guy has been sprinkling more than just salt." Gökçe's only clue, shared in the pic's caption, said, "The man who does not spend time with his family is not a real man."

He's obsessed with The Godfather

If you're tired of referring to Gökçe as the Salt Bae, you can call him "The Saltfather" instead. The man reportedly loves Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic, The Godfather. His Instagram is littered with references from the film: movie quotes, memes, even snaps of him pretending to be mobster Don Vito Corleone. For kicks, Gökçe even records videos pretending he's in the movie, and his accent and impersonation are spot-on! Perhaps Hollywood is in his future?

Artist? Showman? You decide

While there are certainly detractors who dismiss the salt bae's flamboyance as style over substance, Gökçe considers his physicality an expression of reverence. "Actually that move at the end [salting] came automatically," he told the Hurriyet Daily News. "I did not do that to show off. It is just my signature. You can think of it [as] a kind of final touch for a painting. It was a final touch to the meat; I was blessing the meat."

That may be true, but one of Gökçe's Instagram posts from February 2017 might have taken that artistic license a bit too far. In the video clip, he's dancing in his signature ensemble (black pants, white V-neck, dark shades) with a decapitated pig. The music: a techno version of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." There's more: he pulls a bouquet of red roses from the dead animal's butt, then rubs some special sauce all over the carcass, and finally, for the love of God, drops the oinker onto a bed of flames. Some of the tens of thousands of comments found the footage to be entertaining and funny; others simply labeled it as a pathetic stunt to attract more attention.

Salt Bae's future

Gökçe is now feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of fame and fortune. With a new crop of restaurants opening and a crew of celebrities flocking to his eateries, this internet sensation isn't going away anytime soon. Perhaps what's more exciting about Salt Bae's newfound glory, is that he's loving every minute in the spotlight and thankful for the affection. He attended the annual sports Laureus Awards in 2017, carrying his own bag of coarse salt, of course. "Thank you, it was a real pleasure to share this moment with all those beautiful people," he captioned a snap from the red carpet. It will be interesting to see where his culinary adventures take him next.