What Does Chief Cook and Bottle Washer Mean?

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer Meaning

Definition: A term used to refer to someone who is in charge of practically everything within an organization.

The idiom chief cook and bottle washer is used to refer to someone who is in power in an organization and oversees virtually every aspect of the organization.

It is used particularly to refer to small businesses or other small-scale organizations. Although it seems to apply particularly to the restaurant industry, this idiom can be used to refer to anyone in such a position in any industry.

Origin of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Meaning of head cook and bottle washerThe etymology of this idiom is unclear. However, it first appeared in print in the early 19th century. The earliest instance of this idiom in print was in an 1802 edition of the Commercial Advertiser:

  • …our Captain has lost sight of his owners, almost every officer in the ship, from the purser to the cook and bottle washer…

In this appearance, the idiom may have been used in a literal context, although its meaning is unclear. The full idiom appeared in various books, letters, and other sources published throughout the 19th century, suggesting that it commonly used.

Examples of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Define chief cook and bottle washer originThis term is used to refer to someone who is in charge yet also performs small tasks. In other words, this person does everything from the most important tasks to the smallest, most menial tasks.

For example, the owner of the local sushi restaurant might describe herself as the chief cook and bottle washer. Although she owns the business, she might also work as a cook, a dishwasher, and a cleaner if she needs to. Though this example is related to the restaurant industry, the idiom can apply to anyone, in any industry, who is in a position of power but also takes charge of small tasks.

More Examples

  • “Ninety percent of the audience had never seen an opera before,” said founder, president and “chief cook and bottle washer” Daniel Cardona, an actor, stage director and non-singing extra at the Metropolitan Opera House. – NY Post

Summary

The English idiom chief cook and bottle washer is used to refer to someone who is in charge of practically everything within an organization.