As over a hundred in Miami protested outside the in Brickell location of the Salt Bae restaurant this week, Maduro told reporters on Tuesday that he wants to go back to the restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey “very, very soon.”
“I sent my regards to (Chef) Nusret [Gökçe, Salt Bae’s real name], a very nice man [who] loves Venezuela,” he said. “I even sat down in a chair of a true sultan … We hugged like 100 times.”
Maduro’s response comes amid widespread condemnation in Venezuela and overseas following a series of videos and photos from Chef Gökçe, aka Salt Bae on Instagram, that showed him enjoying an expensive, sumptuous meal as millions of Venezuelans starve.
Earlier this week, Gökçe hosted Maduro at his Istanbul restaurant and posted video of the lavish meal to his 15.7 million Instagram followers.
“Any member of the opposition can visit [the venue],” Maduro said using the Spanish word “escuálido,” a term that belittles the regime’s critics.
Maduro feasted on an opulent dinner of roasted lamb, while Gökçe, who became known as Salt Bae on social media for his theatrics of sprinkling his steaks with a salt flourish, catered to Maduro. He draped a T-shirt with a caricature of himself — with the logo for his restaurants —over Maduro like a bib and they said goodbye with a tight embrace.
“I’ll see you soon in Caracas,” Maduro told him in the video.
Maduro on Tuesday also imitated Salt Bae’s famous salt-sprinkling gesture: “Look, I learned the technique,” the president said. He added that he’ll visit the Internet sensation’s premises in a future visit to Turkey and referred to the reporting of his feast as “an international mob.”
This as protesters in Miami yelled outside the Brickell location: “Ignorant chef, you support a fraud!.”
Until this week, Salt Bae was best known as an Instagram-famous chef. He wears tight V-necks, owns a global chain of high-end steakhouses, and entertains his celebrity clients by sensuously sprinkling salt on thick slabs of meat.