In the social media era, food many times has been reduced to a meme. From Black Tap’s overloaded shakes, to rainbow bagels, to cronuts (which actually are delicious), to Starbucks unicorn Frappacinos, to even something as simple as avocado toast, some dishes exist less to eat and more to rack up likes on Instagram. The stars of these viral foods are generally the dishes themselves. Sure, people wanted to meet Dominque Ansel, but what they really wanted to do was snap photos of his cronut.
And then, on January 7, 2017 the world was treated to this:
We had a viral food moment where the food was almost entirely beside the point, and where man had become meme. If the dramatic presentation of the tomahawk steak and overly deliberate slicing weren’t enough, the coup de grace—that most unique sprinkle of salt cascading down his forearm—created a viral sensation: #saltbae was born. In the presence of Turkish chef and butcher Nusret Gökçe, people went and got the vapors.
Gökçe has capitalized on his fame. Ever since his viral moment, the chef has made more ludicrous and entertaining videos, and has been spotted with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Drake. The 35-year-old—who has been a butcher since he was 13—has grown his Instagram following to north of 10 million and changed perceptions at home.
“In Turkey, butchering was a low-class, degrading job,” he told the New York Times. “Now, thanks to me, all the kids want to become butchers.”
More importantly, he’s used the notoriety to grow from restaurants in Dubai and Turkey to Miami late last year and now a 150-seat restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. Inside the old China Grill space in the Black Rock building he’s opening the 13th outpost of his Nusr-Et steakhouse.
Ever one for flair and theater, the steaks, racks of lamb, and veal at his Midtown steakhouse will be cooked over charcoal, and then carved tableside so you, the diner, can perhaps capture an Instagram video that garners a boatload of likes.
Nusr-Et opens on Thursday to the public and he’s already planning another New York location on top of expanding to London. His 15 minutes of fame have extended to more than a calendar year, and he’s hoping he can stretch it out even further. With his burger tower, perhaps he can.