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Salt Bae is getting sued again.
The controversial chef, whose signature tableside move is sprinkling salt onto pricey steak from his arm, was just slammed with a $5 million copyright infringement lawsuit, Page Six first reported.
In the suit filed Tuesday, a New York artist claims that the Turkish restaurateur, whose real name Nusr-et Gökçe, is using his art without his say-so.
In court documents, William Hicks says Bae hired him and another artist pal back in 2017 to paint a portrait of him. The artwork first appeared in the Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Brickell and later various other locations including Dubai.
But Hicks learned last year that Gökçe was allowing the image to be used at his restaurants around the world, unauthorized. The suit says the Internet star put the image on menus, takeout bags, on a line of seasonings and even wet wipes.
“Defendants were engaging in widespread, unauthorized distribution and use of the original works in, among other places, Nusr-et’s steakhouses and Saltbae Burger restaurants in New York, Dubai and Istanbul,” the suit alleges. “Defendants also unilaterally decided that they would instead unlawfully adapt, create, and distribute unauthorized derivative versions of the original works … to display in Nusr-et steakhouse locations in at least Abu Dhabi, Ankara, Etiler, Mykonos, and Bodrum Yalikavak Marina.”
On Instagram Wednesday, the artist tells his followers about the situation.
“A few years back, me and @JoeIurato were commissioned to paint a one of a kind painting for their ‘high end’ steak house in New York. Joe and I both appreciate a good joke, so we agreed,” says the Brooklyn man’s post with a screenshot of the New York Post story. “The first commission turned into a second commission for the Miami location. Then later another for Doha. Each commission came with a signed contract dictating the terms of the usage. Where it would be located. What it could be used for. Who retained the copyright (it’s us!).”
Hicks goes on to say that “none of that mattered” to the chef “who proceeded to use the image that @JoeIurato and I created for everything from other locations, to wet nap packets, to an entire line of salt and spice products, and the branding for a new low class #SaltBaeBurger restaurants. None [of] this was permitted in the contract.”
Gökçe first caused waves on the local scene in 2017 after a shocking photo appeared of him dressed up like Fidel Castro. A year later, local Venezuelans protested outside his eatery after video surfaced of him at his Istanbul spot serving President Nicolas Maduro.
This is hardly Bae’s first brush with the court system. Last summer, Bae won a class action lawsuit filed against him by his employees. The case’s lead plaintiff, server Melissa Compere, said the restaurant illegally shared her tips with workers whose jobs didn’t rely on gratuities. A federal judge ruled in favor of Gökçe in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Other things are looking up in the fitness fanatic’s universe. Gökçe is opening a new spot in Las Vegas, Eater reports, and is getting publicity, as always. Just last week, the chef was even parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”