• Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, is prone to favoritism and excess, an Insider investigation found.
  • Some women who worked at Gökçe's restaurant said they were told to wear revealing outfits.
  • Other employees alleged they faced discrimination based on their nationality.

Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, is famous for his showmanship.

The Turkish meat maestro went viral for a 2017 video showing him sprinkling salt on a slab of steak with arched, sensual flair. He rode the wave of his fame and expanded his restaurant empire, which now includes 22 luxury steakhouses named Nusr-Et.

But a new Insider investigation found a darker side to Gökçe and his restaurants.

Seven lawsuits in two cities and interviews with nine former staff members from six of Gökçe's restaurants depict him as a tyrant obsessed with wealth and excess, Insider's Sophia Ankel reported. In addition to allegations of wage theft and labor violations, former staffers described a testosterone-laced work culture rife with misogyny and discrimination.

"You feel like you were treated a lot less, not really respected," a former female reservations agent at Nusr-Et Miami told Insider.

Allegations of discrimination based on nationality

Former employees alleged that they faced discrimination because they were not Turkish, and that Turkish employees at Gökçe's restaurants were treated more favorably, Insider's investigation found.

In a complaint filed in November 2021, Angelo Maher, a server at Nusr-Et New York, claimed he was fired in 2020 after he spoke out against what he called "nationality-based employment discrimination." Despite his "previous strong performance," he wasn't rehired after COVID-19 restrictions eased — even though Turkish employees were, according to the court filing.

Maher also alleged Turkish employees were not reprimanded for their mistakes as their non-Turkish colleagues were. Another former employee who spoke with Insider echoed the claim.

Maher, who identifies as Latino, said in his lawsuit that he was called "Spanish shit" by a colleague. He added that he suffered "mental and physical anguish" after the workplace became a place of "physical intimidation and discriminatory intimidation directed at non-Turkish employees." The lawsuit is ongoing.

Revealing outfits and alleged misogyny

Women who worked at Gökçe's restaurants said they were told to wear revealing outfits and were harassed by their male colleagues.

The reservations agent at Nusr-Et Miami said while she wore a standard uniform, some female colleagues were made to wear dresses that looked like they were "going to the club." 

Elizabeth Cruz, a former bartender at Nusr-Et New York, alleged she was asked by a general manager to change into a "short skirt, high-heels, and revealing top" on her first day of work, according to a complaint filed in November 2021. After the manager discovered Cruz was Dominican, he allegedly told her, "My wife is Dominican. I know how you women are" — which she took as a suggestion of sexual promiscuity.

Cruz felt humiliated, but complied with the manager's request. Her male colleagues began to harass her, the complaint said. One colleague told her she should work as a stripper. Another pestered her to go on a date with him, even following her home one evening despite her pleas to stop.

In Cruz's complaint, she noted that other female employees who were Turkish — like Gökçe — didn't have to wear revealing clothes like she and some others did.

Two weeks into the job, Cruz was fired after asking to wear the standard uniform of pants and a button-down shirt. In her lawsuit, Cruz alleges she was terminated in retaliation for her complaints. (The lawsuit is still ongoing.)

In another lawsuit filed in January 2020, Melissa Compere, a former employee at Nusr-Et Miami, said she wasn't promoted because of her gender despite her qualifications.

Compere and the restaurant reached a confidential settlement agreement in 2021. Lawyers for Gökçe denied her claims in a court filing.

Gökçe did not respond to interview requests from Insider. Christy Reuter, a lawyer representing Gökçe and his businesses, said in a statement to Insider: "The allegations are really nothing more than a re-hash of old lawsuits where the claims were disputed and have long since been settled." 

Read the original article on Insider