It all started as a personal ambition by a 27-year-old Nigerian chef to enter the Guinness Book of Records. But Hilda Baci ended up putting Nigerians’ patriotism on display, creating a frenzy among the Nigerian ruling elite and the masses alike, as well as elevating the image of her country in the commity of nations.
Hilda Bassey, popularly known as Hilda Baci, made a historic feat when she broke the Guinness World Records for the longest cooking time by an individual.
Baci started her four-day cooking marathon challenge on May 11 at the Amore Gardens, Lekki, Lagos and kept cooking to extend the record till the 96th hour. As of 11:22 am on final, Baci had cooked for 91 hours and 21 minutes to surpass the previous record set by an Indian chef, Lata Tondon in 2019. The previous title-holder cooked for 87 hours, 45 minutes, and 00 secs.
Baci described the acquisition of the Guinness Record as one of her biggest aspirations. “The journey to the cook-a-thon started five years ago. It is one of my biggest aspirations and I am glad that I took the bold step to embark on this adventure. I have taken time to prepare for this psychologically and I am proud to finally take on this challenge.
“The cook-a-thon is also an opportunity to tell some of the positive stories that come from Africa through the meals that we make.
“This attempt is also proof of the strength young people can exhibit with the right platform and support. I look forward to receiving support from people across the world to achieve this feat,” she said.
Her quest for history generated so much buzz among Nigerians who rallied support for her both on social media and at the venue of the cook-a-thon.
In the course of the contest, many dignitaries including the President-Elect, Bola Tinubu; former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar; former presidential candidate, Peter Obi; Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) showed support and lauded her resilience and grit.
Sanwo-Olu visited the chef at the Amore Gardens in the Lekki area of the state and cheered her up. The lead pastor of Harvesters International Christian Centre Lagos, Bolaji Idowu; and Actor Charles Okocha, amongst others, also visited the chef.
When she eventually clinched the Guinness Record, congratulatory messages poured in for her the high abd mighty for placing Nigeria on global spotlight. The then President Muhammadu Buhari commended the young chef for finding her way into the Guinness Book of Records and placing Nigeria on global spotlight. In a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President lauded the young culinary expert for turning her talent and passion into a career, and for resilience, perseverance, and consistency in cooking.
“The President notes the antecedents of the restaurateur who dazzled at the Jollof Face-off Competition, 2021, preparing mouth-watering dishes that won the choice prize, and settled an age-long rivalry with Ghana on which African country should own the trademark for cooking better jollof- rice,” the statement partly read.
The President said Hilda Baci’s drive and ambition had brought more interest and insight into the uniqueness of Nigerian food, as another cultural icon, with huge tourism benefits, hoping more young people will follow in her footsteps.”
Similarly, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan said Baci’s feat was a reminder to the entire world that Nigerians are talented and capable of excelling in any endeavour. “I celebrate Hilda Baci for breaking the Guinness World record in ‘longest cooking time.’
“You have made us proud by again showing to the entire world that we have all it takes to excel in any task we set our hands on,” Lawan said in a statement by his spokesman, Ola Awoniyi.