The internationally famed Turkish cook Nusret Gökçe, also known as "Salt Bae," said in a recent interview with daily Sabah that his application for a U.S. visa got rejected nine times in the past, as he urged his fans to "never give up."
Advising his fans to continue to work toward their dreams, Gökçe said that he has become so famous that agents from the U.S.'s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) escort him in the airport.
"My application for a U.S. visa got rejected nine times in the past. Now when I land, I get personally escorted by CIA and FBI agents to go through customs. So it's really important to never give up and continue to fight," he said.
The employer of nearly 2,000 workers globally, Gökçe said that he considers himself and his chain of high-end steakhouses to be a representation of Turkey in the world.
When asked which Turkish brand has ever been the biggest international marketing success, Gökçe pointed to his own, adding that he's a "cultural ambassador of Turkish culture."
"I have 28 million social media followers. Anything I post there reaches people around the world. I think that's one of my biggest contributions to the introduction of Turkish culture to the world."
After becoming a social media phenomenon and earning the title "Salt Bae" for his unique method of sprinkling salt on dishes, Gökçe quickly rose to culinary stardom globally and now runs restaurants in dozens of spots including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, New York, Miami, Doha and Mykonos.
'Turkey is one of top 10 economies globally'
The culinary mogul said that he immediately flew back to Turkey when the COVID-19 pandemic started, as he believes his home country's health care to be superior to all others.
Gökçe said that he's also optimistic about the domestic economy, as he believes that Turkey always emerges from crises as a stronger country, and will come out of the pandemic stronger as well.
"We are one of the ten biggest economies in the world. It's vital that we preserve that. If what we went through as a country had happened anywhere else, that state wouldn't have emerged from that in 50 years."
Turkey ranked 19th in the World Bank's ranking of countries' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with 2018 data, a number that's fallen for Turkey since.
The culinary celebrity also said that Turkey should market its petroleum, cuisine and history to the world, although the first isn't a domestic resource.
Unfazed by the financial tide that the pandemic has sent global markets in, the entrepreneur said that he's also looking to open new restaurants around Europe soon.
"I like taking risks. I have confidence in the global power of my brand. One must turn a crisis into an opportunity."