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  • Writer's pictureDining Elevated

Restaurant Customer Engagement ... With Flair

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

The quintessential example of adding flair and flourish to foodservice is Turkish Chef, Nusret Gocke. Popularly known as “Salt Bae”, Chef Nusret arrived on the international fine dining food scene in dramatic fashion in 2017. He quickly became an internet sensation when he posted an Instagram video of himself slicing steak and then fancifully tossing salt on it. This video became a viral hit globally with over 10 million views. It was also turned into countless gifs which are still widely shared today.

Born in 1983 in Erzurum, Turkey, Nusret Gocke is the son of Faik and Fatima Gocke. At two years old, his family moved from Erzurum in Eastern Turkey to Darica where Nusret was raised alongside his two brothers. Despite his humble upbringing, Nusret held onto deep-seated desire to own and operate his own restaurant someday. This lofty aspiration unexpectedly found its legs when Salt Bae was thirteen. Due to his family's financial issues, he was forced to leave school in the 6th grade and help contribute. He found his place in the working world becoming a butcher’s apprentice. For the next thirteen years, Chef Nusret worked under the local butcher at the Kadikoy district in Istanbul as well as various Turkish steakhouses.

In 2009, seeking more international knowledge about the meat industry, Nusret traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there, he began to dream about traveling to the United States for what he imagined would become his own version of “meat tourism.” After three tenuous attempts at the grand adventure, Chef Nusret was finally successful in making it to the US. Once he returned to Turkey, the newly-energized Gocke opened his first restaurant, Nurs-Et Steakhouse in Istinye Park. With just eight tables and ten employees, Nusr-Et ran its operations like every other small food business. Not long after that, though, a Turkish businessman named Ferit Sahenk dined there and was extremely impressed by what young Nusret had built. Long story short, Sahenk became an investor in Nusr-Et which allowed the chef to grow the foodservice business from there. Soon after, locations of Salt Bae’s meat-centric cuisine were popping up in Dubai and Ankara Doha.

With a number of restaurants under his belt by 2017, managing nearly 600 employees, Nusret was an accomplished, but still somewhat unknown chef until his rise to internet fame. When that video hit the scene, everything changed. His fanciful style of dropping salt from his fingertips, to his forearm, to the dish captured the world’s attention. This way of tossing the salt apparently just came naturally to him. He has stated that he had no intention of showing off. Instead, the move was simply a final touch to preparing and presenting the meal on the luxury dining table setting. He said, “I was blessing the meat.” While this was perhaps, perfectly natural, it was also what put his unique style of customer engagement on the map.

Since his rise to fame, Nusret has prepared meals for celebrities including the likes of Leonardo DeCaprio, Odell Beckham Junior, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, and Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar to mention a few. Nusret pays close attention to the details of the food served in his restaurants as well as the table setting design. This applies to the prep process as well as the sumptuous finished meals he has prepared. He personally and regularly visits the slaughterhouses where his beef is sourced. He spends about eighteen hours a day personally inspecting and carving each piece of beef before it is served. He knows well that rigorous food safety protocols and operational hygiene is critically important. No corners are cut and no expense is spared with this. With reports of meat contamination and supply chain issues occurring globally, and very often in Europe, Salt Bae is well aware that these health matters and food allergy concerns are nothing to take lightly.

Chef Nusret is highly dedicated to his restaurant and talks about having next to no personal life outside it. That’s just fine by him. Instead, he focuses on taking his customers to another world with his theatrical presentations and mouth-watering dishes.

How does Chef treat his restaurant guests?

Nusret’s restaurants all live up to their internet fame, in terms of ambiance, service, and food, and dining room decor. Each location is stunning and provides the option of indoor or outdoor dining, depending on your choice. The interior dining room décor is vibrant, with great attention to details. Not to be outdone, each waiter sports a trimmed or twirled Salvador Dali mustache, which is of course reminiscent of Chef Nusret, himself. Dark polished wooden floors and its luxury dining table sets, Nusr-Et makes each guest feel at home. He provides restaurant customers with a sense of comfort combined with elegance as demonstrated by dramatic, sparkling chandeliers. The modern, chic, yet earthy interior of Nusr-Et creates the perfect atmosphere for restaurant guests to connect and share a fine dining meal with friends and family. The butcher shop has all the finest cuts of meat on display in the most hygienic, attractive way possible. And behind that, is the busy kitchen. Finally, the main dining room, with several styles dining table ideas all merged into one eclectic interior design masterpiece, is backed by a glass wall, which separates it from the outdoor seating terrace.

What type of place setting designs is Salt Bae known for?

Nusr-Et provides place setting arrangements for both very intimate, small parties and very large groups. The colors are rich, brown and in keeping with the carnivorous vibe. Meals can either be prepared at a grill installed by the table-side or back in the kitchen, depending on what is ordered. For private catered events and special occasions, meals are prepared directly in front of guests, and Nusret gets to showcase his flamboyant salting skills, spicing up the dining experience. The indoor luxury dining room sets are well lit and ventilated. Outdoor dining arrangements are similar to the interiors, with small accommodations made for al fresco-friendly tableware and dining table accessories, the only difference is guests get to enjoy the superb views. Social communication between tables is encouraged and many, many videos continue to be taken of Salt Bae's theatrics!

What can we make of his tableware accessories and how does that impact the food?

The dining tables and dining room interiors at the Nusr-Et locatons represent the heart of the customer experience at each of its restaurants. Everywhere you look, the color palate is WARM. The amber colored drinking glasses, brown leather, custom-made seats, and tall wooden salt and pepper shakers all work to enhance the customer experience of the juicy, rich meals served there. If you look closely, the modern flatware is actually GOLD flatware! Gold flatware signifies the height in luxury tableware and tableware accessories. (Only one notch above that would simply be adding these golden flatware rests along with it!) This touch of elegance is juxtaposed to the informal number of utensils provided, only 2, plus a butter knife! We believe this may be done to make diners feel relaxed and at home and effectively removes the worry and fuss around the "right" cutlery to use with any given course.

At Nusr-Et, the key is in the details. That commitment to excellence has allowed Nusr-Et to retain its place on the global foodie map, attracting diners from all around the world. Nusret Gocke and his flamboyant salting skills complement the properly detailed and well-constructed restaurants he owns. Patrons are happy to dine at Nusr-Et, not just for the food, but the ambiance and fun that comes with it. While it is also well-known to be high-priced, diners are in fact paying for the experience as much as the food. But isn't that true in most restaurants today? Customer EXPERIENCE and a truly memorable evening out with loved ones is what we're all looking to have. But who knew a little salt toss could take it all that way?!

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