Popular memes of 2017: Salt Bae


Popular memes of 2017: Salt Bae

The currently popular meme that I will be exploring is referred to as ‘Salt Bae’. Turkish Chef, Nusret Gökçe became a worldwide Internet sensation after the discovery of his signature move. This involves him delicately sprinkling salt on carved meats in his steakhouse. The video on YouTube has over 5 million views this year alone (27 December 17), and is getting even more popular by the day.

Dawkins (1976 [1989]) suggests that memes are reproducible. Social media has enabled this meme to go viral based on ‘Salt Bae’s’ posture and dramatic seasoning of meat. This has ultimately resulted in the creation of humorous memes that are often related to petty things that people do in unwanted situations. My personal favourites can be seen below:


Davison (2012: 122) suggests that a meme is ‘a piece of culture… which gains influence through online transmission’. This particular meme applies to Davison’s understanding of memes as ‘Salt Bae’ now has 10.2 million followers on Instagram (27 December 2017). His exaggerated movement whilst seasoning meats has enabled him and his steakhouse to become recognised worldwide and has also allowed him to become an interest to celebrities. We are currently living in a society where technology and social media are continuously advancing, meaning that the economy has greater demands on attention. The memes of ‘Salt Bae’ above were discovered on Instagram. I have acknowledged that the funnier memes tend to be on the Instagram accounts that have numerous of followers. This therefore gives me the impression that they are determined to make viral memes even more ‘out there’ to gain popularity for their own accounts.

The increasing popularity of this meme can be analysed through Davison’s three components: manifestation, behaviour and ideal. The manifestation of the meme is in Davison’s words, ‘observable’ and ‘external’ (2012: 123). ‘Salt Bae’s’ video of him dramatically seasoning meat is cleverly captured. It is unique and far different from regular chefs. Everything about this video draws the viewer – ‘Salt Bae’s’ chic style (especially those sunglasses!), his laidback persona and his dramatic yet equally cool gestures. It is almost as if the video maker knows that this unique chef will become famous for his signature move.

The behaviour of the meme can be a further reason why ‘Salt Bae’ has went viral. Again the video maker seems to be quite professional when recording ‘Salt Bae’. This suggests that the intention of this video was indeed to gain viewers interest in this unique chef – humorous viral memes was perhaps not expected from this.

Finally, the ideal relates to ‘the concept or idea conveyed’ (Davison: 2012:123). In this sense, ‘Salt Bae’ was originally filmed to attract customers in visiting his famous steakhouse. By doing something originally this whole concept behind ‘Salt Bae’ has enabled this chef to expand his business whilst becoming a worldwide sensation.


  • Davison, P. (2012) ‘The Language of Internet Memes’. The social media reader. New York: NYU Press, 120-134.
  • Dawkins, R. (1989) The Selfish Gene. Oxford: OUP


  • Crystal, D. (2011) Internet linguistics: A Student Guide. London: Routledge.
  • Hafner, C, A., Jones, R, H. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. 
London: Routledge.

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