11th of May, 2023 was the set date, commencement was 16:00 WAT, location was Amore Gardens in Lekki, Lagos Nigeria, and the goal was to break the Guinness World Record in the longest cooking marathon, and the dogged chef is Hilda Effiong Bassey (Hilda Baci).
Her eyes were on the mark, there was nothing that was going to stop her. She kick-started her ‘Hilda Baci Cook-A-Thon’ and like they say, the rest is history.
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days. We all watched as Hilda fought through to scale through.
From party jollof rice to coconut rice, to native rice, to fried rice, to ofada sauce and so much more, Hilda executed her mission to optimum perfection and none lost its taste.
Her idea was to set a record never been set before and she did.
“It is nice to be able to do this. Besides the benefits, it is very important to me that young girls of my age, or even younger, can dream big and do big things. It is important to do this for myself, especially because of my background.
I want women to say Hilda did that, I can do better than that because, even the bible says your latter shall be greater than your former.” She said in an interview before the cook-a-thon began.
Armed with this in mind, the end was what Hilda looked forward to and as she counted down to D-Day, it was one preparation after the other. Hilda prepared mentally and physically.
Now, let’s talk about cooking for 100 hours, who does that? Well, Hilda did. Over 100 local dishes? There is no way the accolades are ending soon.
The interesting thing about this is that everyone who ate the food spoke about the richness of taste and consistency in the quality of meals prepared despite being tired. Ask the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and he would not stop telling you how delicious Hilda’s food is and how proud he is of what she did.
“Huge congratulations to Chef Hilda Baci on breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest hours spent cooking. I had the privilege of visiting and tasting her amazing dishes. The flavour, passion and dedication she puts into her work are unparalleled. Hilda, you’ve made Lagos proud and your accomplishment is a testament to the Nigerian spirit. Keep cooking up greatness.” Sanwo-Olu encouraged.
Well, to be fair and honest, people from her region in Nigeria are known to be good cooks, so, perhaps it is okay to conclude that Hilda has it in her already.
Her mother’s influence on her cooking also speaks to her choice of being a chef, but trust me when I say, daring to make over 100 meals meant she made food from different parts of Nigeria.
Just before you say “Well, she is a chef, she should be able to do that,” let’s start with you daring to stand for 100 hours (breaks included), to prepare over a 100 dishes back-to-back without giving up, and we will know if it was a big deal or not.
A friend said to me “Kemi, I would have been so confused, even with the items in the kitchen labelled, I might have made the mistake of lifting sugar instead of salt because cooking for that long will confuse me.” I laughed hard at her words, indeed, different strokes for different folks.
I was at an eatery recently and while everyone was on the queue awaiting their turn to be served, a lady who had ordered food was getting impatient with the young man who served her because, according to her, the timing between dishing the food, heating it up and serving her was going on for too long and she needed to leave.
Her impatience was quite glaring to all and all of a sudden, she said “My mates are standing up for 100 hours to cook, I am here complaining about the time my food is being heated before it is served to me. Please take your time, I can wait”. Everyone on the queue had a good laugh. Well, I must say I admire the positivity Hilda’s success is spreading.
From people thinking of what new record to break, to the spirit of oneness it inspired regardless of ethnicity, political beliefs or religion, this feat has got many thinking and being optimistic about daring to do the seemingly impossible.
However, there have been some interesting conversations too. Someone shared with me how her friend’s husband teased his wife saying “Let me not hear you complain of spending hours in the kitchen except you have done a 100 hours.”
Another said “If I want to marry and the bride price is high, I will ask my in-laws, can your daughter cook for 100 hours?”
I love how we always know how to bring fun out of almost every situation, no matter how tough it may be. Very typical of the Nigerian spirit.
Talking about tough situations, Hilda was certainly in one during the time of cook-a-thon. I heard she was cramping badly and despite that, it was not a reason for her to quit.
For every time she went on a break, you could tell it was a session she looked forward to. The crowd however ensured she was cheered while going on the break and even as she returned.
It was the spirit of togetherness that filled the air, it felt like if she did not make it, we all did not make it. The consciousness of this spurred the cheers, the music, the hypes…oh, talking about hypes, one that plays in my head till date is ‘What Hilda cannot cook does not exist.’ I completely concur. After cooking that much? No arguments please! I promise to hear you out when you break your own record but until then, please give Hilda her premium accolades.
Another major highlight of the entire process for me was the role that an effective support system played in assisting Hilda break the record.
It reminded me of a situation in the Bible, in Exodus 17:12-13, when Moses’ hands became tired because he had been raising and lowering his hands, and a stone was placed under him and he sat on it. It was Aaron and Hur who held his hands up. One on one side, one on the other, and for doing this, his hands remained steady till sunset and Joshua was able to defeat the Amalekites because as long as Moses’ hands were up, Israel was winning.
There were people like Aaron and Hur, who ‘held’ Hilda’s hands to encourage her to victory.
Aside from the obvious support from the audience and numerous visits from celebrities and dignitaries, her mother, Lynda Ndukwe, CEO Calabar Pot was a solid support. Watching her speak to her daughter and expressing her love for her, acknowledging what she was doing and reminding her how she promised to make her proud was an emotional one for me. Then her tears of joy after Hilda won cannot be described in mere words. It was surely a dream come true.
Secondly, Ajom Sunday Okwe, an assistant Chef to Hilda was an incredible pillar of support. When she was getting tired, he gave her comfort and nudged her not to quit. Get you a support system comprising of Sunday and you will experience comfort on a higher level because your day will shine so bright and the results will bring you a smile.
Chefs Lola and Gibbs Ade were absolutely phenomenal, standing solidly beside her and cheering her to victory.
Also, Rentachefng provided her with chefs that helped her prepare from when the idea was born until the marathon and even after the marathon.
The Founder/CEO of Rent A Chef, Abosede Sadiq in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, on supporting Hilda said, “To be honest, I don’t think anyone can say no to Hilda, she’s the kindest girl ever. I’m happy she achieved her dreams, it’s not easy to bring an idea out of your head and follow it all the way through.” She stated.
On the importance of women supporting each other, she said “it is very important that as women, we support each other. We are strong and resilient and Hilda has shown us our power yet again. Women are magic, let’s never forget our power.” Abosede reminds us all.
Speaking on what Hilda’s win has taught her, Abosede had this to say, “I must keep encouraging and supporting anyone around me that has an idea or a vision, even when the idea sounds stupid and doesn’t make sense, that idea might be the idea that will change your life for good.”
For Chioma Elile, on her decision to support Hilda, she said “When I was briefed about this project by Nowe Isibor, I was extremely excited at the same time curious. As a lady that spends most time in the kitchen, I kept wondering how she was going to cook for 96hrs not to talk of 100hrs +. Hilda’s determination and her zeal to pursue this is unmatched.” Chioma said.
Elile believes that pushing through difficult issues is more relatable when you are wearing the same shoes. According to her, “As a woman, I could relate with her fear, anxiety, determination and so on, and it helped me understand how and when she needed me. This entire process has taught me never to underestimate the power of a good team. They can make or break you.”
“Hilda is a returning client turned friend. So, when she called and shared what she was aiming for, we didn’t doubt it, we believed in her goal.” Mojoyin, Lead event curator at The Owambe Company said.
The Owambe Company is a full service event planning, coordination and event management company located in Lagos, Nigeria. They were the lead event planning and management company at the Hilda Baci Cook-A-Thon. They planned, managed and coordinated various vendors, sponsors and services during the event.
“Her winning means a lot to not just me but to females all over the world. She has inspired us to dream and dream big. This record breaking feat not only shows that women are capable of doing great things, but it also spotlights the dedication and tenacity that women possess, and how great things happen when a group of determined, hardworking people come together.” Mojoyin stated.
For Mojoyin, it is important that women support each other because a win for one woman is a win for all women across the globe. “Women can do so much more when they come together, to work as a team towards a collective goal.” She advises and adds, “The entire process has taught me that I can achieve anything I set my heart to do. It has taught me that there is dignity in labour and it has taught me that women are powerful.”
The applause Hilda received (and is still receiving) is because of her noble cause. For instance, even after calling her during the cook-a-thon, the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osibajo, a professor, said “100 hours…wow! Congratulations on breaking the Guiness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual. What an extraordinary achievement, we are all immensely proud of you.”
Also, accolades came from the governor of her state, Akwa-Ibom. Governor Udom Emmanuel said “This is what our Dakkada philosophy is all about; the determination to dare and conquer what others thought to be impossible. I salute her for putting our culinary skills on full display and of course, our nationally and internationally celebrated cuisines.”
The congratulatory messages didn’t stop there. The 2023 Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi also celebrated Hilda’s victory. According to him, “I applaud her determination and focus on the goal, which is inspiring many Nigerian youths to live their dreams through hardwork and dedication. I wish her well on this noble journey to pen her name in the golden book of history.”
The words of praise from Nigerians and people around the world on Hilda’s triumph are still rushing in, and till date, they haven’t ceased to flow in.
Hilda, from Akwa Ibom State, shattered the previous record of 87 hours and 45 minutes established by Indian chef Lata Tondon in 2019, by cooking for 100 hours.
Brands are already identifying with her by giving her various gifts from physical products, to free travel tickets and so on. Even her mother is getting these gifts too.
In a recent interview after the win, Hilda says she is going to expand her restaurant, and that she was already in the process of opening up to investors to come in and franchise for other countries because she is trying to create jobs.
The mood in Nigeria till today is that of celebration and excitement. One of our own has done us proud.
Indeed, the enormity of the result we desire always inspires us to do more. Let this encourage us all to know that what is worth doing is worth doing well.
To everyone desiring to break a record, please know that as Nigerians, in the spirit of togetherness that we are known for, we will be cheering you on to victory.