A Turkish celebrity chef with restaurants all over the world is coming under attack after he posted videos on social media of Venezuelan President Nicola Maduro feasting at his Istanbul restaurant amid claims that people in Venezuela are going hungry because of an ongoing economic crisis.
Dozens of Venezuelans protested outside chef Nusret Gokce’s Miami restaurant on Wednesday, even after the videos were deleted Tuesday from Instagram. Protesters, some draped in the Venezuelan flag, chanted and sang the Venezuelan national anthem, trying to deter diners from entering the upscale steakhouse in Miami’s Brickell financial district.
Others so overwhelmed the restaurant’s Yelp online review site with negative comments that the comments section was taken offline for an undetermined amount of time.
One video showed Gokce, also known as “Salt Bae,” carving meat for the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, at the Nusr-Et restaurant in Istanbul, where each cut of meat can cost hundreds of dollars.
Another showed Maduro puffing on a cigar from a box bearing his name.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio slammed the chef Tuesday.
“I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday.
Opposition leader Julio Borges, who lives in exile in Colombia, tweeted: “While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolas Maduro and Cilia Flores have a good time in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people.”
But Maduro remained unrepentant for the extravagant outing. After returning home to Caracas, he said, “I send greetings from here to our friend Nusret. Comrade, soon I’ll return to Istanbul so we can see one another again. Thanks for the gifts.”
The once-wealthy oil-producing nation has been in an economic crisis for the past five years. The turmoil has left many Venezuelans struggling to find food and medicine and forced masses of people to flee to other South American countries.
According to the United Nations, more than 2 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014.
A Meganalisis poll published in the Miami Herald last month found more than 30 percent of Venezuelans say they only ate one meal a day. Nearly the same number report eating “nothing or close to nothing” at least one day a week. A staggering 78 percent said they had trouble finding enough food.