What Was He Cooking? is a catchphrase used on a YouTube thumbnail in a video by the channel New Rockstars theorizing about what Thanos was making to eat for breakfast during a scene in Avengers: Endgame. Though the video wasn't viral, the thumbnail and the phrase "What was he cooking?" were later adopted as humorous responses to videos posted on social media in which the subject spectacularly fails, as commenters used the catchphrase synonymously with more common phrases like "What was he thinking?" The reference was particularly popularized among the Super Smash Brothers fandom, with people commenting "what was he cooking?" in response to clips of a player losing their stock in a humorous fashion.
On November 29th, 2023, the YouTube channel New Rockstars posted a video titled "THANOS Death Scene in Avengers Endgame: What Was He Cooking? | BQ Bites." In the video, the hosts theorize about what Thanos was making to eat in a key scene in Avengers: Endgame. The video gained over 253,000 views in nearly two years (shown below).
The video's thumbnail, showing Thanos cooking next to the phrase "WHAT WAS HE COOKING?" in bold yellow letters, later grew into a reaction image on social media (shown below). It was posted to iFunny on December 1st, 2023.
The phrase and thumbnail started seeing use in memes in late 2023. This appears to have been inspired by a December 13th, 2023, tweet by Twitter user @nagistic (shown below, left) in which they posted a screenshot of the thumbnail and the video's view count at the time, writing, "this infuriates me for some reason," gaining over 2,900 retweets and 44,000 likes as of March 22nd, 2023 (the tweet has since been deleted). In the ensuing months, the thumbnail would see use in responses to others making egregious errors or poor plans. For example, on April 28th, 2023, Twitter user @_dtammons posted the thumbnail as a comment on competitive Pokémon player CTC crafting a team around the Pokémon Xatu, gaining over 380 likes in four months (shown below, right).
Others simply used the words "what was he cooking?" to joke about errors, particularly in the Super Smash Brothers community. On July 26th, 2023, Twitter user @VinceFGC captioned a video in which a King Dedede simply stands in place using its inhale move while a Hero player sets him up for a simple kill with the phrase "What was he cooking?," gaining over 40 retweets and 640 likes in one month (shown below, top). On August 4th, user @endeavor_ssbu captioned a clip in which Roy player Kola runs off stage and misses an aggressive spike, resulting in an early lost stock, gaining over 250 likes in one week (shown below, bottom).
what was he cooking pic.twitter.com/UpaRolFdbB
— Na | MF | Vince @ Metafy (@VinceFGC) July 26, 2023
What was he cooking pic.twitter.com/AXGwpQev0j
— Endeavor (@Endeavor_ssbu) August 14, 2023
What was he cooking 😭😭😭😭😭pic.twitter.com/QRh7p7YCEd
— Never Take An L🤷🏽♂️ (@Nezzzooo) August 18, 2023
What was he cooking 😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/RYBOkjLx8o
— 𝔽𝕝𝕠-𝕦𝕒𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕚🍷❁ (@fIoperez) June 16, 2023
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