He’s known for wrapping steaks in gold, but viral chef Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gökçe, could find his local reputation tarnished after his Nusr-Et steakhouse was shuttered this past weekend. City officials cited COVID-19 violations at the swanky new Bay Village spot, noting a failure to obey social distancing rules and state-mandated table capacities, among other complaints.
Some chef-operators say such alleged behavior is hard to swallow, especially during a pandemic, when so many restaurateurs are following the protocols and struggling to survive. (Others have noted that Gökçe isn’t the first to be accused, only the most notable.)
Here is how several restaurateurs reacted:
Chris Coombs, of Boston Chops and Deuxave
"This guy comes in from out of town, and probably either number one, doesn’t understand or, number two, doesn’t care what we’ve been through here in Boston. Most of our industry, in Boston, is hanging on by a thread. Everyone I talk to is pretty fearful of the second [coronavirus] spike, which is already starting to occur. Everyone has been so vigilant to avoid not only what [Salt Bae was] doing, which was very well-known by anyone who went there, or broadcasted all over Instagram. But to boast about it? To disregard the protocol set in place by the city and state?
They’re entitled to wrap a steak in gold and charge people $1,000 for what should be a $100 steak. But nobody wearing masks? When someone is in our restaurant, when they stand up from the table, we immediately ask them to put a mask on or bring them a mask immediately. There is no room for interpretation. . . . It’s not about my opinion. It’s about the health and safety of the public. This affects everyone."
Kathy Sidell, of Met Back Bay and Saltie Girl
“We are working so hard. I don’t understand how anyone makes a decision like that. It’s super irresponsible, and I hate to say it about a fellow restaurateur. It could ruin it for all of us. That’s the bottom line. We all want to feel safe. We literally spray the tables with three different disinfectants. The rules apply to you, no matter how theatrical you are. This is not an auspicious start, in terms of the community. We’re fighting so hard to stay in business.”
Jason Santos, of Buttermilk & Bourbon; Citrus & Salt
“Look, I think, at the end of the day, everyone’s got a gimmick. I have blue hair. I’m not one to throw stones. If sprinkling salt on meat gets you where you want to be, have at it. Some chefs are super bitter. But I’m like, whatever man, if you do the right thing, hopefully the business will come. . . . But do your due diligence. Survival of the fittest.”
Jen Royle, Table Boston
“Stop making us all look bad. One bad apple spoils a bunch. If someone is getting shut down, then the Licensing Board and powers above us are going to start snooping, and it’s extra stress we don’t need. No restaurant and no owner is above following the rules. If every restaurant follows the rules, we all win. You don’t think [Governor] Baker and [Mayor] Walsh are looking and saying, ‘Everyone wants us to open up at 100 percent when this is happening. Who else is doing this?’ Especially someone who doesn’t have Boston pride. We are gritty, blue-collar, hard-working, humble humans. That isn’t our audience.”
Steve DiFillippo, Davio’s
"I was shocked, to be honest with you. Hopefully now they know the rules, reopen, and do the right thing. If someone got sick there, it doesn’t help any of us. It’s bad for the restaurant industry. If they want advice, I’ll help them. I hope they get their act together.
The more restaurants the better; that area is quite slow right now, and people who work there live locally and need a job. There’s not a lot of action in Back Bay. I want them to do well. Everyone deserves one shot. But if they do it again, they should be hammered."