Salt Bae is serving up some controversy.
The Turkish chef, whose real name is Nusret Gokce, earned the ire of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) after he shared video online that shows him waiting on and hugging Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at a restaurant in Istanbul.
“I don’t know who this #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of Venezuela,” Rubio tweeted. “He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day and infants are suffering from malnutrition.”
Gokce became an internet sensation last year after a clip that sees him seasoning his meats with a dramatic flair went wildly viral. Social media dubbed him the Salt Bae, and he currently boasts some 15.7 million followers on Instagram as well as a $1.5 billion restaurant empire, that spans several continents.
Videos of his evening with Maduro and a ‘thank you’ to the Venezuela leader have since been wiped from Salt Bae’s social media pages. In the clips, downloaded by the Miami Herald prior to their deletion, the internet-famous chef can be seen cutting into lamb chops with his signature style.
Maduro is all smiles as puffs a cigar and watches Gokce put the finishing touches on his meal.
“Look how he salts it!” someone off camera says.
Gokce also gifted Maduro a t-shirt with his face on it before embracing the foreign leader.
Maduro has been widely criticized for his leadership in Venezuela, where a raging economic crisis has left many residents starving. Nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans said they lost an average of 25 pounds in body weight due to the food shortage, according to a recent survey. And 20.5% — or the equivalent of about 6 million people — said they would leave the country should Maduro remain in power.
Rubio also urged Florida residents to phone Gokce’s Miami eatery, Nusr-Et Steakhouse and express their dismay regarding his decision to lavish Maduro.
Gokce similarly sparked backlash last year when video of him dressed as Fidel Castro surfaced on Instagram just days after opening his restaurant in Miami.