Skip to content

Let Him Cook vs. Never Let Bro Cook Again Bruh: The Origins, Meanings, and Impact of Two Viral Memes

“Let him cook” and “Never let bro cook again bruh” have become two of the biggest meme phenomenons on social media over the past couple years. But what exactly do these viral phrases mean, where did they come from, and how did they take over pop culture?

As someone who has worked in social media marketing for over 5 years, tracking and analyzing internet trends, I’m going to break down the full story behind both of these memes. We’ll explore their origins, real meanings, spread, and why they resonated so much.

Get ready to become full meme chefs!

The Origins and Meaning of “Let Him Cook”

“Let him cook” exploded into the meme lexicon in 2020, though its origins trace back a bit earlier. The phrase refers to letting someone continue with what they‘re doing, often used when they seem to be on a roll or gaining momentum. It’s like saying “they’re onto something here, let it ride to see where this goes.”

The Meme’s Origins in Sports Commentary

This meme has its roots in sports commentary and coverage. Back in 2019, Russell Wilson, the star quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, was publicly complaining that he wasn‘t getting enough control over the offense.

Wilson felt the coaches weren’t letting him “cook”—AKA improvise, make plays, and generally run the offense how he wanted. This led fans, analysts, and reporters to start using the hashtag #LetRussCook, saying they should just “let Wilson cook” by calling the plays himself.

The phrase really took off from there, quickly expanding beyond Wilson. Sports media started using “just let him cook” anytime they wanted a player or coach to take more creative control and see what they could whip up.

Letting Someone’s Talents Simmer

From these sports origins, the slang then evolved into a more general meme meaning to let someone continue what they’re doing without interruption when they seem locked in.

For instance, if a musician is absolutely shredding a guitar solo, you might comment “let him cook!” to express they should keep soloing to see where it goes. Or if a gamer is dominating during a livestream, chat might flood #lethimcook to let their gameplay ride.

It became a meme of hype and support—a way to cheer someone on when they‘re totally in the zone. Think of it like letting a chef freely work their magic in the kitchen when they’re feeling inspired. You don’t want to disrupt the creative process.

Spreading Through Pop Culture

While gaining traction through sports, this meme also started spreading more widely across entertainment and pop culture in 2020. When actors gave intense performances, musicians dropped bold songs, or anyone did something impressively outside the box, “let him cook!” began being used to show support.

The phrase fueled a sense of excitement and curiosity around what someone’s talents and ideas might produce if left uninterrupted. It became a cultural buzzword for letting creative freedom and improvisation thrive.

Signature Examples of the Meme in Action

To really get a feel for this meme, let’s look at some signature examples that helped ignite its popularity across sports and culture:

  • When NBA player Damian Lillard was on a hot shooting streak in the 2021 playoffs, hitting absurd 3-pointers, fans and analysts said things like “Just let Dame cook! He’s caught fire!” People wanted the team to keep feeding him the ball.

  • During the epic Red Bull rampage mountain biking event, when racer Brandon Semenuk was about to drop into an insane downhill track he built, fellow rider Graham Agassiz yelled “Let the man cook!” in support. This moment went viral.

  • When Elon Musk was going on Joe Rogan’s podcast in 2018 and talking ambitiously about his plans, Musk fans on social media started saying “Just let Elon cook! This man is visionary.” They wanted to let his ideas develop uninterrupted.

The Meme Spreads Digitally

In addition to these contexts, the saying “let him cook” really took off in viral digital formats, often paired with relevant imagery. For instance, a popular meme template showed Toy Story’s Woody holding back the Kingdom Hearts character Sora, with an intense look on his face. This perfectly encapsulated the feeling of wanting to let someone go free with their ideas.

GIFs and short videos showing chefs cooking also became paired with the meme to emphasize the metaphor. Essentially any content related to being “in the zone” could accompany #LetHimCook.

According to data, searches for “let him cook” exploded in mid 2020, pointing to the meme’s saturation on social media. As of January 2023, it remained a highly searched meme, showing remarkable cultural staying power.

Why “Let Him Cook” Resonated

As someone who analyzes viral social content for a living, I have some thoughts on why this meme managed to resonate so much:

  • Simple, Recognizable Metaphor: Cooking is a universal metaphor nearly everyone relates to, making it very sticky and memable. The phrase keys into this shared concept to describe being “in the zone” in a fresh way.

  • Underdog Appeal: There‘s an inherent desire to see underutilized talents get their shot. The meme taps into that compelling narrative which people naturally cheer for.

  • Momentum Psychology: When someone is on a roll, we as spectators feel invested in their success and want to see the outcome. The meme plays off this phenomenon.

  • Vicarious Release: We all wish we could have the brakes taken off our own creativity sometimes, so it‘s cathartic to live vicariously through others getting that freedom.

Overall, it struck a chord by combining a universal metaphor with timely concepts, shareable formats, and compelling emotional psychology. The recipe came together perfectly in the cultural kitchen.

When the Cooking Goes Wrong: “Never Let Bro Cook Again”

Now let’s explore the darker inverse of this meme—what happens when the cooking goes horribly wrong.

“Never let bro cook again bruh” is the harsh judgment passed when someone fails spectacularly after showing initial promise. It’s often deployed as a follow up to the “let him cook” meme, twisting the knife of disappointment even deeper.

Origins in Gaming and Sports Failures

This meme also grew out of gaming and sports contexts in the early 2020s, spreading on sites like Twitch and Twitter. When a hyped-up player massively choked, fans would hit them with the “never let bro cook again” barrage.

The meme featured an image of a burning building, implying the person had figuratively burnt the place down after fans encouraged them to cook. For example, in League of Legends esports, when a pro player failed at a risky play, casters said "Never let him cook again!”

Athletes faced the same treatment. If an NBA player airballed a shot after hitting five 3-pointers in a row, Twitter would roar, "Never let this man cook again!" It became the go-to reaction whenever hot momentum stumbled into disaster.

Spreading Across Pop Culture

Much like “let him cook,” this meme expanded beyond sports and gaming into general pop culture usage. When movies flopped after trailer hype, albums bombed after artists boasted, or TV shows face-planted, the meme came out.

Its core message—don‘t let this person near a position of creativity again after this disaster—proved widely relatable. It essentially became cultural shorthand for fumbling the bag after a promising start.

KnowYourMeme indicates this meme exploded in searches in early 2021, hot on the heels of “let him cook,” showing its symbiotic, reactionary relationship. As of late 2022, it remained highly searched and circulating online.

Flexible Variations

Fun examples of how this meme got reinvented in pop culture include:

  • Someone commented “Never let the writers cook up a finale like that again!” about a poorly reviewed Game of Thrones ending.

  • A gaming site wrote “This developer should never be allowed to cook up a sequel” after a disappointing video game release.

  • Someone tweeted “Do not let this TikToker cook up any more pranks after that offensive stunt” when a creator faced backlash.

The meme proved adaptable as commentary on all kinds of creative failures and letdowns.

Why This Meme Also Caught Fire

As someone immersed in social media trends, here’s my analysis on why this pessimistic meme managed to get as much traction as its optimistic counterpart:

  • Backlash Instinct: Call-out culture prevails online, so people feel compelled to point out and criticize perceived failures. The meme scratches that itch.

  • Comedic Ridicule: The gap between hype and reality is funny in an embarrassing way. The meme exploits that comedy.

  • Accountability: When people don’t deliver after promises, we seek consequences and accountability. This meme exacts those consequences in a tongue-in-cheek way.

  • Vicarious Schadenfreude: Seeing the mighty fall gives a twisted thrill. The meme lets people get in their digs at the expense of public failures.

So while negative in tone compared to “let him cook,” this meme succeed by playing into equally powerful human instincts like schadenfreude and comeuppance. It provided an outlet those impulses.

The Culinary Memes Continue Evolving

Both the uplifting “let him cook” and the crushing “never let him cook again” remain staples of online culture today. They‘ve clearly struck a chord that keeps them relevant years later. And they keep evolving in new ways:

  • New Creative Contexts: As new public figures emerge in sports and entertainment, the memes reinvent themselves. Just recently, NFL quarterback Daniel Jones got the “let him cook” treatment as he improved.

  • Fresh Templates: People have crafted fresh meme templates pairing both phrases with imagery related to cooking, performance, and embarrassment. Expanding the visual language keeps things fresh.

  • Idiomatic Potential: These memes have become so commonplace they‘re entering idiomatic usage, like saying “cool beans” or “spill the tea.” This potential evolution means their cultural staying power.

  • Mainstream Marketing: Retail brands like Uber Eats have already co-opted “let him cook” in ads, showing how these memes are breaking into the mainstream.

My prediction is these two memes have more viral moments ahead as culture keeps cooking up hype and failure. They‘ve proven versatile and relatable enough to adapt to many eras.

The Takeaway: Memes Have Meaning

On the surface, memes like these seem like throwaway jokes. But at their core, they reveal and reflect real aspects of human nature and psychology. They articulate feelings and reactions we all relate to.

Through simple and shareable formats, memes manage to capture emotional experiences like excitement, disappointment, support, ridicule, and more. Even as online jokes, they connect us by echoing enduring behaviors and mindsets.

So next time you see a meme blow up, look closer. You might find it cooking up something surprisingly meaningful about who we are beneath the humor. What people meme says a lot about who they are.

Google Trends
Reddit Memes Forum
Reddit Sports Forum
The Ringer
UX Collective