Not a stranger to cooking competitions, “Nigerian Jollof Queen”, Hilda Effiong-Bassey smashed the Guinness World Record for longest marathon cooking by an individual two years after emerging as the winner of the 2021 regional cooking competition “Jollof face-off”, DEBORAH TOLU-KOLAWOLE writes
At exactly 4p.m on May 11, 2023, as the clock ticked “tick-tock, tick-tock”, Baci turned on her kitchen cooker and the timer began to count, indicating the beginning of an attempt to make history.
On April 19,2023, Nigerian chef, Hilda Effiong-Bassey, popularly known as Hilda Baci announced her desire to compete in an arena that no Nigerian had ever competed; thereby making her the second African woman to compete and attempt to surpass a previous holder in “The Guinness World Record title for the longest cooking marathon by a single individual.”
Backed by her team, Bassey in an earlier press briefing noted that she would cook tons of Nigerian dishes for 96 hours non-stop.
Beating a previous record of 87 hours, 45 minutes of non-stop cooking by the current world record holder (as certified by GWR), Chef Lata Tondon from the small town of Rewa, in Madhya Pradesh, India in 2019 however, was not going to be an easy feat.
Tondon, popularly regarded as the “Iron Lady” broke the 2018 record of 68 hours 30 minutes 01 seconds set by Rickey Lumpkin of the United States of America.
Tondon who is the first woman to hold the global title in 2019 was said to have cooked 1,600kg of food grains, 400 vada-pavs, 250 sandwiches and other food items for four marathon days. Over 20,000 visitors, including orphanage children, persons with disabilities and aged persons who attended the event, ate the food, according to a report by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism.
The chef proved to be an environmental activist when she encouraged her supporters to purchase over 17,000 young trees and planted them to conserve nature.
Before Bassey, a Chef from Kenya, Maliha Mohammed emerged as the first African woman to make an attempt to break the GWR records for a cooking marathon.
Mohammed who was 36 as of 2019 worked with a team of 40 to break the 2018 record of 68 hours 30 minutes 01 seconds set by Rickey Lumpkin of the USA.
Online publication, Standard Media noted Mohammed prepared tons of local and international cuisines.
However, she failed to set a new record.
Bassey, 27-year-old graduate of Psychology began her quest to break the world record five years ago.
For the well-known content creator and cooking instructor, the desire to break the world record started initially as a “claim to fame”. The daughter of a chef, Hilda during a press briefing organised in Lagos before the start of the competition noted that she had been obsessed with the book of the Guinness World Records from a younger age and had grown up with a strong desire to have her name in it.
The cook-a-thon which was held at Amore Gardens, Lagos saw Bassey showcasing her culinary skills.
The cook-a-thon attempt was broadcast live on Youtube, and Instagram live.
According to Bellanaija, Hilda who cooked in a cooking set shielded with a glass frame wasted no time in impressing the audience as she kicked off the Cookathon on its first day. Showcasing her versatility in the kitchen, she expertly prepared a delightful selection of local delicacies, Hilda prepared various local recipes including Party Jollof, Coconut rice, Native Rice, Peppered Fish, Turkey Stew, and more.
She was allowed one assistant at a time and can take a five-minute break each hour, or the equivalent over several hours.
Friends and celebrities such as Big Brother Naija stars, Seyi Awolowo, Elozonam were among the stars who turned up to support her on the first day of the cook-a-thon.
Other well-meaning Nigerians were also at the venue to support Baci.
According to Pulse.ng, Some of the highlights from the cook-a-thon was the yoga class on the morning of the third day which was facilitated by Tobe Ifeanyi, and a speech from Baci’s mum at 47 hours when Baci needed motivation. Her mom, a top chef herself, is the owner of Calabar Pot, Abuja.
Fifty-eight hours into the cook-a-thon, a group of traditional Efik dancers came to support Hilda dressed in traditional dancing gear. Sixty-four hours into her attempt, Baci had cooked over 110 meals with over 2,795 persons served. Pulse.ng noted that despite the “obvious exhaustion” following the 64 hours of cooking, she did not compromise on the meal standard and has maintained excellence which her brand is synonymous with.
At 7:45am on Monday morning, Baci surpassed the record held by Tondon.
After hitting the initial 96-hour target, Hilda on Monday afternoon was headed to achieving a 100-hour record time.
The Guinness World Records, while fielding responses to Nigerians on Twitter about Baci’s feat, noted that it would review her attempt before recognising her officially.
Baci’s move witnessed an influx of Nigerians to the venue of the cook-a-thon to see her break this record and thousands more, following live events closely via social media.
Notable celebrities and politicians such as the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwoolu; a former governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio, popular musician, Tiwa Savage, Spyro, Big Brother Titans ex-housemates, Thabang Mazibuko and Tsatsii Madiba, were also present showing their support and admiration for Baci’s attempt.
Food bloggers and influencers such as “Diary of a kitchen lover”, Gina Ojo were also present to support Baci.