Vietnamese find top cop’s pricey London steak dinner hard to stomach

Vietnamese Minister of Public Security To Lam stopped for a steak dinner in London this week after attending the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland – and ended up serving red meat to his online critics back home.

To, thought to be a potential future leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was caught on video at the London branch of a luxury steakhouse chain called Nusr-Et, being hand-fed by Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, a social media star better known as Salt Bae. 

Flinging salt in his trademark move, Salt Bae fed To gold-coated Golden Giant Tomahawk steaks in the video, which was posted Wednesday on the chef’s account, Tik Tok @nusr_et,  which has around 11 million followers.

Ministry spokesman To An Xo sat next to Lam recording the gastronomic feats on a smartphone.

The video was removed from Salt Bae’s Tik Tok account just 30 minutes after a Vietnamese activist shared it on his Facbook page on Thursday night – but not before it caught the attention of followers who wondered how To could afford a steak that costs 1,450 pounds ($1,975) on a monthly salary of roughly $660

“Where did he get the money?” asked a follower of activist Hoang Dung called Nguyễn Hữu Trường. “His annual salary can’t afford that meal!”

“My tax money has been used for luxury,” quipped Bùi Mạnh Tùng.

Others noted that the opulent feast took place when many of Vietnam’s 98 million people are struggling, and unable to travel, after a nearly two-year economic shutdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gokce, 38, has opened 17 steak restaurants around the world. But when his London eatery opened in September, it was slammed for $34 desserts and $135 hamburgers in the British press, which ran features on stratospheric Salt Bae dinner tabs.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu and Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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