Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

Meaning:

Too many people working together on something may cause problems and the final product (the thing that’s being worked on) can be negatively impacted as a result.

Example: Bill and four of his classmates had to work together on a science project for school. However, problems arose because everyone had their own opinion on how it should be handled. There were too many cooks in the kitchen, and so the science project was never finished.

Alternate form: too many cooks spoil the broth


The Origin Of ‘Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen’

This phrase may come from eateries like restaurants, as these are obviously common places for numerous cooks to be found all in the same kitchen. But what’s the problem with having several chefs in one room? Nothing per se, the problem comes when numerous chefs all want to work on the same dish and they all have clashing opinions on how it should be made. Here’s an example:

Several cooks want to make a delicious soup, but they cannot all agree on how it should taste. Some of them want to add more spices, others want a thicker broth, and still others want to add ingredients that are not traditional in the type of soup they are making. So each chef ends up putting in some ingredients that they think would work well together.

The result? The soup tastes terrible! Its flavor is all over the place. One of the chefs even put in sliced bananas, which was a terrible idea! Anyways, do you see how having too many chefs working together negatively affected the soup? Indeed, all those differing opinions in the kitchen resulted in a mess. That’s why this idiom is applied to other situations where too many people are working on something; the results may be disastrous.

Anyways, the alternative form of this expression goes back as far as the early 19th century. For example, it’s written in The Tasmanian newspaper, August 1833:

“It is an old, but very true saying, that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth.’ “

As you can see in the quote, the expression is called an ‘old saying,’ so it must obviously be much older. As for the other form of the phrase, the earliest I could find it in writing is in a book called A Seventh Essay on Free Trade and Finance, by Pelatiah Webster, 1785:

“This one would think was grounded on natural fitness, for we find it holds true in all human affairs, from a house too full of servants, a field with too many reapers, a town-meeting of too many people, a kitchen with too many cooks, a committee of too many members.”


Example Sentence(s)

  • There’s a big problem with my truck’s engine. I took it to an auto shop, and there’s like six mechanics trying to figure out what’s wrong. In my opinion, there are too many cooks are in the kitchen and that’s why it’s taking them so long to find the problem.
  • There should only be one person in charge of directing this project, because too many cooks spoil the broth.

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