Internationally popular chef Nusret Gökçe, better known by his moniker “Salt Bae,” has found himself embroiled in another lawsuit, this time with a Brooklyn-based artist named William Logan Hicks. According to the paperwork filed with the Southern District of New York, Hicks says that Gökçe commissioned him and another artist, Joseph Iurato, to make murals of Salt Bae “in his signature salt sprinkling pose” four years ago for cleared use in his restaurants. However, it came to Hicks’ attention last year that Gökçe began using those images for things other than his eateries, without contacting the artists for proper licensing and no discussion of future compensation, either.
“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 documents allege. “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.”
But Hicks’ art apparently found its way to more than just restaurants: menus, stickers, seasonings, and all possible kinds of Salt Bae merch now had the images – and the artist claims he never received one red cent for anything afterwards. However, Hicks further asserted that when he tried to contact Gökçe about easing off uncleared use of his artwork, Gökçe instead “doubled down on their already widespread infringement, expanding their willful use of the Infringing Materials to locations in Doha, D Maris Bay (Turkey), Boston, Dallas and several additional locations in Istanbul.”
Gökçe is no stranger to allegations of nonpayment. Earlier this year, he reportedly owed as much as $933,000 to Jim Benge, owner of construction company BengeTexas, for stiffing Benge over work done to complete his Dallas restaurant. Gökçe also paid four ex-workers $230,000 in 2019 as a settlement to a case where they alleged they were never told the truth about how much they were actually earning in tips and were promptly let go by Salt Bae when they asked.
However, Salt Bae has remained tightlipped on Hicks’ allegations and is issuing no comment on the lawsuit at this time.