May 20, 2022

The Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gokce aka Salt Bae comes to the screening of the film “The Traitor (Il Traditore)” at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 23, 2019.

Loic Venance | AFP | Getty Images

Christy Reuter, an attorney for Gokce, did not have an immediate comment but said she would let him know of CNBC’s request.

Gokce, an extravagant native of Turkey, became the internet meme sensation Salt Bae a few years ago for his sensual videos.

Often seen in Gokce’s much-watched Instagram and Twitter posts, wearing sunglasses and a tight white shirt, expertly butchering beef with a long, sharp knife and then drizzling salt on steaks, the crystals sometimes peeling off meet his forearm in which he turns into the shape of a swan.

“All my feelings come from inside the meat until I put the salt on the meat,” Gokce once told NBC News.

In addition to locations in New York, Miami and Dallas, his steak chain now has restaurants in Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mykonos and several other cities.

While diners have the opportunity to marvel at Salt Bae in action, in case Gokce happens to be in the restaurant that evening, diners donate a lot of money for the eatery’s offerings.

A kale salad is one of the cheapest starters on the New York menu at $ 25 a piece.

From there prices escalate, with a thickly sliced ​​Wagyu ribeye steak for $ 100 and the Wagyu “Saltbae Tomahawk” – a “highly marbled, mustard marinated bone in ribeye” – for $ 275 a piece.

Throw in sautéed mushrooms and it’ll cost you an extra $ 15.

The five men who sued the chain and Gokce himself on Monday alleged they missed some of the proceeds from those huge dinner bills after they were shut down in 2018 and 2019 after his online fame.

Four of the men, Ersel Ok, Muhammet Yilmaz, Emre Isler and Eyyup Yeniceri, live in Queens, New York, while the fifth, Ibrahim Gecit, lives in Miami.

Her suit says that all five men worked for the chain until the last two weeks of July.

All of them are Turkish citizens “recruited by the defendants to move to the United States to work in internationally renowned restaurants of the defendants,” as grillers, the lawsuit states.

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Upon arriving in the United States, the lawsuit said the men were posted to “grueling hours in non-managerial positions in restaurants” despite being classified by the chain as exempt workers who were paid a weekly flat-rate wage.

So-called non-tax-exempt employees, such as cooks, are entitled to overtime pay equal to 1.5 times their hourly wage after working 40 hours in a week.

The lawsuit states that the men received no more than a weekly salary of $ 1,125.

The Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gokce, also known as “Salt Bae”, will speak to his employees in his restaurant “Nusr-Et” in the Grand Bazaar after its reopening on June 1, 2020 in Istanbul.

Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images

The complaint states that the men regularly worked at least 72 hours a week but were denied overtime pay and “hourly pay on days when their shifts were more than ten hours”. Restaurant workers are entitled to an additional hour of wages if their work exceeds 10 hours in a single day.

“The defendants also failed to provide the plaintiffs with accurate salary notifications at the time of recruitment, to keep accurate records of the hours worked by the plaintiffs, and to provide the plaintiffs with accurate pay slips for every wage payment,” the lawsuit said .

The complaint states that Gokce hired the men and “gave them letters in support of their I-129 O-2 nonimmigrant visa petitions to relocate from Turkey to New York to work for the defendants”.

“When Gokce was in the restaurants, he personally monitored the plaintiffs’ work,” the lawsuit said.

“Gokce had an aggressive leadership style, frequently berating plaintiffs and blaming them for the mistakes of other employees.”

The lawsuit also states that although each of the men regularly worked 12-hour shifts, “both Gokce and the restaurant managers ordered plaintiffs to work extra hours because the” chef “was present” when Gokce was present was “.

The cooks in the suit claim that they have been instructed to prepare special meals for Gökce.

And the lawsuit states: “During the Covid-19 pandemic and times of social unrest in New York, managers hired plaintiffs to carry out security work at Nusr-Et New York and Saltbae Burger, including staying overnight in the restaurants to ensure security that the buildings were not destroyed. “