Celebrity chef ‘Salt Bae’ will pay $230,000 to four ex-servers
Salt Bae must pay.
Four former waiters have taken a $230,000 slice out of the Instagram-famous chef after he allegedly fired them from his Manhattan steakhouse for asking questions about tips.
As part of the deal, a notice about workers’ rights will be posted in the Nusr-Et restaurant on W. 53rd St. in Turkish and English.
Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gokce, agreed to the settlement on the eve of trial before a National Labor Relations Board arbiter.
“Salt Bae should adhere and learn to respect labor laws and regulations. You simply cannot do whatever you like, regardless of your fame or economic status. We are glad we live in a jurisdiction where worker rights are protected and preserved. This wasn’t about money, this was about making a point and fighting for all the workers’ rights in USA," former server Batuhan Yunkus said.
Salt Bae became famous for videos showing him sensually slicing and slapping cuts of beef. Christy Reuter, an attorney for the chef, declined comment.
The workers claimed management never told them how much was collected in tips. Instead, they’d get weekly checks of around $2,000 to $2,500, which they were told included gratuities. A document showing how tips were distributed — which is common in restaurants — was deemed “confidential” by Nusr-Et management and withheld from staff, they said.
Yunkus, Onur Usluca, Yunus Delimehmet and Suleyman Kucur described their beef with Salt Bae to the Daily News in February.
“He’s trying to cover up his authoritarian, dictatorial attitude,” Yunkus said. “He doesn’t care about local laws.”
Salt Bae’s viral videos, often showing him sprinkling salt with signature flair, made him an international star. His Instagram account has more than 23 million followers and features him with celebrities like Puff Daddy, DJ Khaled, Neymar, Roger Federer and Bruce Willis. There are Nusr-Et steakhouses in Salt Bae’s native Turkey, Dubai, Miami and elsewhere.
The payout covers the period of time from the servers’ terminations to the date of the settlement. Their NLRB complaint contended that the workers’ questions about the tips was legally protected activity, though there is no union at the restaurant. Claims regarding wage violations are still pending.
“The NLRB protects workers not only in unions but ones who aren’t in unions,” wage theft attorney Lou Pechman said.
“This was a tremendous victory for our clients and sends a loud message that retaliation is prohibited under the law.”