- Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, is prone to favoritism and excess, an Insider investigation found.
- Some women who worked at the Gökçe restaurant said they were told to wear revealing clothing.
- Other employees alleged that they faced discrimination based on their nationality.
Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, is famous for his showmanship.
The Turkish meat master went viral for a 2017 video showing him sprinkling salt on a piece of steak in a sultry, arching style. He rode the wave of his fame and expanded his restaurant empire, which now includes 22 upscale steakhouses called Nusr-Et.
But a new Insider investigation found a darker side to Gökçe and its restaurants.
Seven trials in two cities and interviews with nine former staff members of six of Gökçe’s restaurants describe him as a tyrant obsessed with wealth and excess.reported Insider’s Sophia Ankel. In addition to allegations of wage theft and labor violations, former employees described a testosterone-fueled workplace culture rife with misogyny and discrimination.
“You feel like you were treated a lot less, that you weren’t really respected,” a former Nusr-Et Miami booking agent told Insider.
Allegations of discrimination based on nationality
The former employees claimed they faced discrimination because they were not Turkish and that Turkish employees at Gökçe restaurants received more favorable treatment, Insider’s investigation found.
In a complaint filed in November 2021, Angelo Maher, a server at Nusr-Et New York, claimed that he was fired in 2020 after speaking out against what he called “nationality-based employment discrimination.” Despite his “previous good performance”, he was not rehired after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, even though Turkish employees were, according to the court filing.
Maher also alleged that the Turkish employees were not reprimanded for their mistakes as their non-Turkish colleagues were. Another former employee who spoke to Insider echoed the claim.
Maher, who identifies as Latino, said in his lawsuit that a colleague called him “Spanish bullshit.” He added that he suffered “mental and physical anguish” after the workplace became a place of “physical intimidation and discriminatory intimidation directed at non-Turkish employees.” The lawsuit is ongoing.
Revealing outfits and alleged misogyny
Women who worked in Gökçe restaurants said that their male colleagues told them to wear revealing clothes and harassed them.
Nusr-Et Miami’s booking agent said that while she was wearing a standard uniform, some female colleagues were made to wear dresses that looked “club-going.”
Elizabeth Cruz, a former waitress at Nusr-Et New York, alleged that a general manager asked her to change into a “short skirt, high heels and a revealing top” on her first day of work, according to a complaint filed in November 2021. After the manager found out that Cruz was Dominican, he allegedly told her, “My wife is Dominican. I know what you are like,” which she interpreted as suggesting sexual promiscuity.
Cruz felt humiliated, but agreed to the manager’s request. Her male colleagues began harassing her, the complaint says. A colleague told him that he should work as a stripper. Another of hers pestered her into going on a date with him, even following her to her house one night despite her pleas for her to stop.
In Cruz’s complaint, she pointed out that other female employees who were Turkish, like Gökçe, did not have to wear revealing clothing like she and others.
After two weeks on the job, Cruz was fired after asking to wear the standard uniform of pants and a button-down shirt. In her lawsuit, Cruz alleges that she was fired in retaliation for her complaints. (The lawsuit is still ongoing.)
In another lawsuit filed in January 2020, Melissa Compere, a former Nusr-Et Miami employee, said she was not promoted because of her gender despite her qualifications.
Compere and the restaurant reached a confidential settlement agreement in 2021. Gökçe’s lawyers denied his claims in a court filing.
Gökçe did not respond to Insider’s interview requests. Christy Reuter, a lawyer representing Gökçe and his business, said in a statement to Insider: “The allegations are nothing more than a repeat of old lawsuits where the claims were disputed and settled long ago.”