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#saltbae: Facebook unblocks hashtag after Vietnamese minister's golden steak

High-ranking Vietnamese official visits Nusret Gokce's restaurant amid corruption crackdown
Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gokce, aka Salt Bae, at the Cannes Film Festival, France, on 23 May 2019 (AFP)

Facebook on Tuesday unblocked the hashtag of celebrity chef Nusret Gokce's nickname '#saltbae', having found the term had been blocked globally days after a video was posted online of Gokce feeding a gold-encrusted steak to a senior Vietnamese Communist Party official in London.

"We've unblocked this hashtag on Facebook and we're investigating why this happened," a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, told Reuters.

The hashtag was blocked globally and a search for it would only generate a message saying that community standards had been violated.

The video, showing Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam being fed a gold leaf encrusted steak by Gokce, originally appeared on the chef’s official TikTok account.

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Lam was in the United Kingdom for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and stopped in London for a bite at the Instagram-famous chef's high-end restaurant, where a steak sells for up to £1,672. ($1,960).

The images of Lam gorging on expensive food amid a state crackdown on corruption in Vietnam caused controversy at home.

The official monthly wage for a minister in Vietnam is around $700.

"Security officers following this account, have you seen the video of minister To Lam eating salt-sprayed beef? Do you know how many months salary you'd have to spend for just one piece of that steak?" Facebook user Nguyen Lan Thang wrote in one post.

Lam, who holds one of the most powerful ministries in Vietnam, did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters, neither did Vietnam's foreign ministry. The video was removed from Gokce’s TikTok shortly after it was uploaded.

Gokce is a 38-year-old miner’s son from Erzurum in eastern Anatolia. One of five children, news reports recount how Gokce left school aged 10 and started working as a butcher's apprentice in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul at 13 to help take care of his family.

At 23, with 10 years of work experience under his belt and some savings, Gokce travelled to Argentina and then to New York. It's there that he is said to have studied steak restaurants in the hope of one day opening his own, which he did in 2010.

Gokce now has 15 diners across Turkey, the US, and the Middle East.