City of Miami Formally Censures Salt Bae for Serving Lavish Meal to Maduro

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Salt Bae
It's been ten days since Nusret "Salt Bae" Gökçe was caught serving a bunch of ridiculous luxury steak to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Seriously: Screw Salt Bae for doing that while Venezuelans are starving. But also, ten days is way too long to care about him. He is famous for throwing salt on meat while looking like a douchebag. He sucked when he went viral, still sucks, and will suck in perpetuity. He is unimportant.

But now, ten full days later, the City of Miami has gotten involved. The city commission yesterday voted 5-0 to yell at a human meme. City Commissioner Manolo Reyes sponsored the resolution, which admonishes Gökçe for both his Maduro glad-handing and that stupid time when he posed as Fidel Castro on Instagram. Miami, which has a massive Venezuelan population, has now seen repeated protests outside Salt Bae's Brickell restaurant, Nusr-Et.

“It is a disgrace and an insult to our community that Chef Nusret Gökçe has shown publicly that he admires the dictators that have caused pain and death in Cuba and Venezuela,” Reyes said yesterday in a news release. “I thank my colleagues for showing their support to the Venezuelan and Cuban communities in this matter, and for standing united with those that denounce dictatorships in the region.”

There are a million other problems Reyes could be concentrating on in Miami other than yelling at an internet star who sells expensive steak. But since Reyes was elected to the commission last November, his most notable activity so far has been being named as a possible accomplice in fellow Commissioner Joe Carollo's recently withdrawn ethics investigation. Miami is suffering through an affordable-housing crisis, is about to get swallowed by the sea, and is poised to not fire cops who get caught doing drugs.

Yet all five city commissioners thought it pertinent to yell at a celebrity chef. Priorities, dudes.

None of this is to say Maduro deserves to be left alone while eating fancy steak. He, like every other world leader, should be forced to drive statistically average cars while eating statistically average foods and flying while wedged in coach to be constantly reminded of how soul-crushing and difficult it is to be a working-class person anywhere in the world in 2018. (The same goes for any other world leader, especially Donald Trump, as well as every member of Congress.)

Getting mad at Salt Bae is fine, but by all accounts, he doesn't seem to have any real political ideology. He'd just as readily serve pork tenderloin to Rodrigo Duterte or Mohammad bin Salman if it meant getting more of that sweet, sweet Instagram clout. It's worth noting that restaurant critics pretty uniformly say Salt Bae's steakhouses are overpriced and terrible. His issue is not so much that he loves Maduro, but that he's a fame-hungry fool whose business model revolves around selling needlessly expensive items to rich people with no taste. He simply loves genuflecting to powerful people across all political ideologies.

Case in point: Salt Bae has Nusr-Et outposts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Qatar. He has happily posed for photographs with King Abdullah of Jordan, who has been accused of jailing critics and supporting policies that are abusive to women and LGBTQ people. Here is a clip of Gökçe serving Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, who has been accused of kidnapping boys to use as camel-jockey slaves and using indentured servants to build his capital city:

The Miami Commission's apparent anger toward the Fancy Steak Condiment Guy would also ring a lot less hollow if the city weren't constantly approving new condo towers designed as money-laundering vehicles for international despots, monarchs, and white-collar criminals.

The feds are trying to crack down on Venezuelan officials who allegedly siphoned money from the country's poor and used it to buy Miami real estate. City officials know the local condo market is a hotbed for these sorts of transactions but continue approving new real-estate projects anyway. Miami is designed from the ground up to be a playground for the sort of monsters against which the city commission is now railing.

That's precisely why Salt Bae opened a restaurant here in the first place.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.