Who is this Turkish chef who left his studies at the age of 13, started working as a butcher’s apprentice and likes to be talked about, good or bad, like now, when he slipped onto the World Cup playing field.

Turkish chef Salt Bae, who is the subject of a FIFA investigation for trespassing on the pitch after the World Cup final, is a regular in controversy, especially over the gold-coated steaks he offers in his fancy restaurants.

These signs of glitz and wealth draped in edible sheets of the 24-karat precious metal cost upwards of $500, but are not to everyone’s taste, particularly British and American food critics, who consider them “banal” and “tasteless.” .

In 2018, several Venezuelans had protested in Miami when he received Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant in Istanbul, whose country is mired in a serious economic crisis. But Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gokçe, is comfortable with all the criticism – good or bad – and continues to attract politicians and soccer stars (Deschamps, Maradona, Beckham, Messi, Mbappé, Ribéry) in its 22 establishments spread all over the world, from Beverly Hills to London, passing through Qatar.

“All publicity is good publicity,” commented the chef one day, whose fortune is estimated by the press at 70 million dollars.

The 39-year-old has become an internet star thanks to videos in which he theatrically seasons meat and makes sexual references while salting steaks.

– 49.8 million followers on Instagram

His image and iconic gestures, widely cultivated on social media, have played a major role in his rise to global celebrity status. On Sunday, after the World Cup final, he inexplicably managed to jump onto the grass of the Lusail stadium in Doha.

In several images he even appears kissing the trophy, which in principle can only be touched by world champions, FIFA officials or heads of state. In other images he is seen holding Messi by the arm, visibly irritated, or biting a player’s medal.

FIFA is investigating how he was able to access the pitch without having any official ties to football, although he boasts of an alleged closeness to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

With Gianni Infantino, in a privileged place in Qatar

With Gianni Infantino, in a privileged place in Qatar

Thus, in a video that Salt Bae shared on Instagram, where he has 50 million followers, he is seen being hugged several times by the world soccer leader, who introduces him to various personalities during a reception in Qatar.

Born into a modest family in eastern Turkey, he dropped out at the age of 13 to start working as a butcher’s apprentice.

He cultivates an image of a strong and tough man. He is seen thus doing runs and physical exercises through the exclusive neighborhoods of Istanbul – “the capital of the world”, as he told AFP in 2020 – with weights tied to his thighs and arms.

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