Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dined on expensive steak at a “Salt Bae” restaurant in Istanbul, drawing condemnation back home, where an economy spiralling toward collapse has triggered a food crisis.
Millions are struggling in Venezuela to get enough to eat and red meat is a rare luxury.
Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, who owns a chain of restaurants and is known as "Salt Bae" for his theatrical style of sprinkling salt on his steaks, posted videos and photos on his Instagram and Twitter pages showing Maduro and his wife, Cilia, dining.
In one video, Maduro tells fellow diners, “This is a once in a lifetime moment,” as Gokce dramatically slices steak for them by their table while swaying his hips.
Maduro confirmed the visit in a state broadcast later on Monday. He said to reporters, "We shared (a meal) at a famous restaurant with (the chef) Nusret Gokce, I send him a greeting from here. He took care of us personally, we were talking with him."
"A very nice man, very cheerful. He loves Venezuela, he told me several times: 'I love Venezuela. I admire Venezuela,' Nusret told me. From here I send greetings to Turkey. He showed us a museum when we were having lunch with him. A museum of pieces from the Ottoman Empire with pieces that are 700 years old".
Gokce did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Venezuela’s political opposition jumped on the dinner as evidence of Maduro’s disconnect from the country’s crisis, which has caused over 2 million people to emigrate to escape widespread shortages of food and medicine.
“While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolas Maduro and Cilia enjoy one of the priciest restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people,” tweeted opposition leader Julio Borges, the former head of Congress.
Almost two-thirds of Venezuelans surveyed in a university study published in February said they had lost on average 11-kilograms in body weight last year.
Eighty-seven per cent were assessed to live in poverty.