Vietnamese minister criticised over ‘Salt Bae’ gold-plated steak dinner



To Lam, centre, was hand fed gold-plated steak that is said to cost more than his monthly wage

A Vietnamese minister has raised eyebrows after a video showed him being hand-fed gold-plated steak by celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, known as “Salt Bae”.

Public security minister General To Lam was dining at the chef’s famously expensive London restaurant, Nusr-e.

Critics have questioned the choice of venue, with one steak dish costing more than the minister’s monthly wage.

The video appeared on Mr Gokce’s TikTok account but was reportedly deleted after attracting media attention.

The restaurant in the upmarket Knightsbridge district has made headlines for its expensive menu.

The prices are not listed on its website, but according to reviews the gold-covered steak ranges from £850 to £1,500 ($1,140 to $2,015). And that is without drinks, side dishes or the 15% service charge.

It is unclear what the cost of the final bill came to or who paid it. The minister’s monthly wage is between $600 to $800 per month, before any allowances.

The delegates were in London after attending the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

The video, posted on 3 November to Mr Gokce’s 11 million TikTok followers, showed the chef personally preparing steak dishes in front of the Vietnamese delegation, and then hand feeding one piece of meat to the general.

Despite being taken down, screenshots and copies of the video were widely shared online.

Human rights activist Hoang Dung was one of the first people to post the pictures on his personal Facebook page, and questioned why a work dinner had to be held at such an expensive restaurant.

Many social media users denounced the opulent meal and compared it to poverty in Vietnam.

“My tax money has been used for luxury,” Radio Free Asia quoted one person as saying.

“Vietnam is still poor but the minister is so luxurious, the officer is enjoying so much extravagance,” Facebook user Mung Tin Ngo wrote.

Others defended the diners, pointing out that they are entitled to a spending allowance while on business trips, while others suggested they may have been invited to the restaurant by a third party who paid.

Gen To Lam’s office has not yet made any comment.

Vietnam, which used to be one of the world’s poorest countries, has experienced significant economic growth over the past 30 years, however much of the population still lives below the poverty line.

The average Vietnamese citizen earned a monthly income of around $230 in 2021, according to the General Statistics Office.

The south-east Asian country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and its residents have endured strict lockdowns to keep the virus contained.

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