Venezuela

Marco Rubio says he was ‘pissed’ when he saw #Saltbae filleting steak for Maduro

Chef “Salt Bae” prepares food for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Turkish chef Salt Bae received Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores at his restaurant in Istanbul. Videos posted to social media show him preparing food for Maduro.
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Turkish chef Salt Bae received Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores at his restaurant in Istanbul. Videos posted to social media show him preparing food for Maduro.

Marco Rubio was not happy while scrolling through Twitter on Monday night.

The Florida Republican came across video of celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, gyrating his hips while serving expensive steak to a cigar-wielding Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant in Turkey. Rubio initially tweeted his displeasure, referring to Venezuelan President Maduro as “an overweight dictator” and Gökçe as a “weirdo.”

Then Rubio found out that Gökçe, who achieved viral fame for his intricate salting of meat, owns a restaurant in Miami. He tweeted out the address and phone number of Brickell’s Nusr-Et steakhouse, a move that drew some criticism online.

Gökçe “is not a guy who I disagree with on some domestic political issue,” Rubio told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “This is someone who is celebrating a criminal. Nicolás Maduro is systematically starving the people of Venezuela. This guy’s here celebrating him as some sort of hero. I don’t know. I got pissed. Is that a good answer?”

Rubio said he made the decision to post the publicly available information because Gökçe has a massive following on social media, with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and 15 million on Instagram, and voicing his displeasure draws more awareness to the ongoing situation in Venezuela, where a recent poll found that 30 percent of the country eats only one meal a day.

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“All I gave is the phone number,” Rubio said. “They should call the restaurant and complain about what the owner of the restaurant did. This is an expensive restaurant, probably overpriced according to some of the reviews that I read, but I don’t care what people’s politics are domestically. I’ve never gone after anybody in business because they have a view of politics different than mine on a domestic matter. This is not a domestic political disagreement.”

A host of other Miami politicians also criticized Gökçe, with Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo calling the video “repulsive,” Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala saying “the dictator will give himself this kind of feast without any shame” while his people starve, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez calling it “disgusting.” A protest outside Salt Bae’s Brickell restaurant is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Salt Bae also drew criticism last year when photos surfaced of him dressed up as Fidel Castro four days after Castro’s death in 2016.

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The Miami Herald’s review of his restaurant described the experience as “salty stand-ins, watered-down cocktails and a breathtaking bill,” and the New York Post described his establishment in the Big Apple as “Public Rip-Off Number One.”

Salt Bae owns 14 restaurants, though the only locations outside the Middle East are in New York and Miami.

Rubio described his reaction as “emotion-based.”

“Nicolas Maduro is systematically starving the people of Venezuela,” Rubio said. “He’s a criminal, on top of the crime he’s committing against his own people by starving them, and denying aid from entering the country, he’s also complicit and active, involved in making money off the trafficking of cocaine and drugs into the United States of America. And this guy is here feasting him, eating this five-star gourmet meal and smoking fine cigars while the people of Venezuela are literally, and I’m not exaggerating, are literally starving.”

Alex Daugherty, @alextdaugherty, 202-383-6049
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