If someone says there are ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ that means there are too many people working together on something, which may result in the final product being negatively affected.
Example: Bill and his classmates were working together on a school science project. However, problems arose because everyone had a strong opinion on how it should be handled. As the saying goes, there were too many cooks in the kitchen, 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 kinds of places have several cooks working in the same kitchen. Is there a problem with having a bunch of chefs in one room? Not necessarily. However, problems could arise if they all tried working on the same dish. Why? Because they might have clashing opinions on what ingredients should be used and it should be made. Let’s look at a brief example:
Imagine multiple cooks want to make a delicious soup, but they cannot reach an agreement 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 ingredients that they think would work well.
The result? The soup tastes terrible; its flavor is all over the place! Thus, can you see how having too many chefs working together on something can result in a mess? Indeed. Today, this idiom is applied to other situations where too many people with differing opinions are working together on something; the results could be disastrous.
Anyway, the alternative form of this expression goes back to 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 be older. As for the other form of the phrase, the earliest I could find it 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.”
- Several car mechanics are huddled around my vehicle; they are arguing about what is wrong with my truck. This feels like a situation where there are too many cooks are in the kitchen.
- There should only be one person in charge of directing this project, because too many cooks spoil the broth.
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