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What just happened here?

Mike Pomranz
January 25, 2018

Nusret Gökçe – the chef/meme better known as Salt Bae – has always been a bit cheesy.

Atypically for the food world, Salt Bae’s entire success has been built around his over-the-top persona: The way he slaps his cuts of steak, the sunglasses inside, and of course, the bizarre sprinkling of salt down his forearm. Almost never has the quality of his food been discussed in the equation. Say what you will about Guy Fieri, but the dude can cook. However, now that Americans are getting a taste of Salt Bae’s actual culinary creations, his reputation has started sinking like a stone. And a recent video he posted to Instagram might be the nail in the coffin: a clip of an otherwise fine looking cut of steak being covered with what appears to be… processed cheese singles.

After about a year of hype, Salt Bae – who is Turkish – finally opened his first American steakhouse in New York earlier this month. Nusr-Et, as it is called, was immediately met with lukewarm reviews at best. Obviously, the New York City culinary crowd can be a bit picky, but though the food has generally been billed as lackluster, the most consistent complaint is that the place is seriously overpriced – not a common quibble in a city used to paying a lot for everything, especially dining out.

So how do you win the Big Apple back? Maybe with a big steak? In a video posted to the official Nusr-Et Instagram account, Salt Bae proved he is still up to his old tricks, showing off as he manhandles a massive cut of meat. It’s the kind of clip that’s worked for him in the past, and everything seems to be going fine until about halfway through when he inexplicably covers the steak in what looks like pre-sliced American cheese singles. Later, he pulls his creations from the grill and gives it a squeeze to show off the ooze. Oh, and he ends with his signature salt sprinkle, of course.

#saltbae#salt#saltlife

A post shared by Nusr_et#Saltbae (@nusr_et) on

None of this is to say that a cheesy steak couldn’t taste good: Philadelphia loves their steaks cheesy and they're in the Super Bowl. But for a restaurant the reportedly charges over $500 for a party of three, is processed cheese really an ingredient you want to be highlighting?

Needless to say, social media has not been kind since this video was posted less than 24 hours ago, and one comment is particularly harsh: “When you don't know how to stop trying to be internet famous,” wrote an Instagram user. Salt Bae’s antics got him to the top of the mountain, but now they may have sent him tumbling down the other side. Salt was Gökçe’s first career defining ingredient; let's hope cheese isn't his last.