What Is a 'Chef's Kiss' and When Is It Appropriate?

Pinch your fingers together, kiss your fingertips, then flick your wrist and open your fingers as if releasing your kiss to the world. That’s a “chef’s kiss,” and it means “this thing is perfect and wonderful, and I love it.” But like many pure and lovely parts of the world, social media has warped its meaning — and the compliment of a chef’s kiss may not be so complimentary anymore.

Baker standing with cake, making chef's kiss gesture Baker standing with cake, making chef's kiss gesture
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When Things Are Bellissimo

Think of the best meal you’ve ever had (preferably Italian, but any cuisine will do). Would you compare it to a kiss? If so, you could call it al bacio — “as good as a kiss.” The chef’s kiss comes from al bacio, as well as the post-World War II stereotype of an Italian chef with a mustache and thick accent. It can come from the chef themselves to attest to a meal’s perfection, or from the lucky person enjoying the dish as a compliment to the chef.

How To Give a Chef’s Kiss

Emoji Chef's Kiss Gesture

When you’re in person, a pinched-finger kiss (or an ok-sign kiss, if that’s your preference) gets the point across. But meme culture isn’t typically interested in the IRL world, so there are a few ways to do it online.

  1. Pair a kissy-face emoji with an “ok” sign emoji.

  2. Download a chef’s kiss emoji from your app store (they exist!)

  3. Type out “chef’s kiss” as a response if you’re feeling especially ironic, or if you don’t have access to emoji (as in _chef’s kiss_ or *chef’s kiss*)

Things That Deserve a Chef’s Kiss

Chances are, you’ve seen the chef’s kiss long before it made its way to memedom. From Looney Tunes’ French Rarebit to The Muppets’ Swedish chef, the chef’s kiss has long referred to a thing (usually food) at the peak of perfection.

But a chef’s kiss isn’t just for the perfect Boeuf Bourguignon or lièvre à la royale. Blow a chef’s kiss when:

  • someone successfully parallel parks on the first try

  • your friend’s outfit looks so good that you have no words

  • your spouse nails a job interview

  • two or more of your favorite songs play from a friend’s perfectly-picked playlist

  • you finish setting up for a party and everything looks amazing

  • a performance goes exactly the way it was supposed to go

  • your sister rolls up in a gorgeous new car

  • a friend introduces you to her Prince-Charming-esque boyfriend

But Don’t Rush to Take It as a Compliment

However, that’s not always the case with the chef’s kiss meme. The term has become popular on social media and message boards as a way to compliment someone’s excellent post or comment, or to make fun of a stupendously off-base post or comment. It can be hard to tell the difference, so here’s a quick guide:

  • Did someone respond with a chef’s kiss because you replied with a thoughtful, well-written comment that summed up the importance of a topic? Then the chef’s kiss is probably sincere.

  • Did you say something that you’re pretty sure is right but didn’t research, and have been called out on before for being totally wrong? Then it’s probably sarcastic.

  • Did you post a photo of a celebrity in a lovely dress, or a video of an athlete doing something unbelievable? Chef’s kiss is real.

  • Did you call a celebrity by the wrong name or totally mess up your post in another irredeemable way? Sorry — that’s a sarcastic chef’s kiss.

  • Did you defend someone against racism, sexism or ableism? That’s a sincere chef’s kiss.

  • Did you say something racist, sexist or ableist? The chef’s kiss is probably making fun of you. (Also, stop saying hateful things.)

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Your Vocabulary Can Be *Chef’s Kiss*

Do meme-speak and Gen Z slang confuse you? Add some seasoning to your vocabulary with these guides: