Contrary to opinions on the streets of Twitter, you don’t just wake up one day and decide to cook up a storm for four straight days unprovoked — at least, that wasn’t Hilda Baci’s M.O for shattering a Guinness World Record.
“It took me five years to be ready for this attempt,” the 27-year-old chef shared during a chat with Zikoko a week before the cook-a-thon.
Baci first nurtured the idea when she was 21. However, the lack of resources or a big enough platform at the time kept the dream at bay — until she was ready to pick it up again late in 2022.
Months ahead of the impressive cook-a-thon, Hilda Baci was in every room and literally everyone’s face with a single message: “I’m breaking a world record, and you must bear witness.”
A strong desire to be taken seriously by peers and big brands in the food industry is what drove her.
And oh boy, did the world pay attention to this audacious woman? In Baci, many could see a reflection of themselves, inspired even, to attempt their own individual records.
An expensive venture no doubt, Baci had to collaborate with top brands in the culinary industry: Gino Max, Bama Mayonnaise, Woodscope, VivaPlus Detergent, Chillcity, Uber, Oriki, Beige Wallet, among others.
A month ahead of the cook-a-thon, Baci challenged herself to a 24-hour dry run, and the success of it would erase any doubts she had about breaking a world record.
Let the cook-a-thon begin
Source: Instagram (@hildabacicookathon)
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 11, 2023, the doors of Baci’s make-shift kitchen at Amore Gardens, Lekki, were thrown open for the world to witness greatness in its entirety.
Supporters and well-wishers poured through the gates with a clear mission: Hype Hilda Baci till the finish line. This mission reverberated through the country until the cook-a-thon became the most talked about topic in the Nigerian social media space.
From those inspired by Baci’s strength and audacity to others who called their own culinary skills to question, it was all beautiful to see.
And we have the receipts:
Ghanaians even tried to claim Hilda Baci as one of their own.
The previous holder of the record, Lata Tondon, sent her best wishes to Hilda.
Guinness World Record holder for longest dance party, Kaffy, also showed up for her.
Enioluwa was there through it all, and everyone now wants a friend like him in their corner.
What screams support more than a colleague willing to hit the streets with a placard?
Amid the excitement, there were growing concerns about the possibility that Guinness World Records would snub Baci’s attempt, but this was nipped in the bud after she was acknowledged in a Twitter post.
At 7:46 a.m. on Monday, May 15 (officially, day four of the cook-a-thon), Baci shattered Chef Tondon’s existing record of 87 hours, 45 minutes and 00 seconds.
However, the journey was far from over as she had a mission to set a new record of cooking for 96 hours — a feat which was accomplished at precisely 4 p.m. on the same Monday.
But Baci would not only shock herself, but also the world, when she went an additional four hours to finally turn off the gas at 100 hours.
Meet Hilda Baci’s team
While it’s important to celebrate Hilda Baci’s impressive feat, there were superstars behind her who made this feat possible. Nigerians especially fell in love with, Ajom Sunday Okwe (AKA Chef Sunny), the sous chef who occasionally dabbed Baci’s face when it got extra sweaty.
We spoke to her PR coordinator, Nene Bejide, and here’s what she had to say.
There’s been a lot of hype for the chef who stayed in the kitchen with Hilda. Which other team members should we be celebrating?
I’ll say Nowe, for putting the team together. Chef Gibs, who came onboard through Hilda — he’s the president of the Culinary Arts Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CAPA). Chef Gibs was very instrumental to how the food flowed. He worked with Hilda to put the menu together and break it into rounds. He also helped her during the dry run to calculate the time she spent on each meal.
Hilda is a fast cook. So it was important for him to let her know how long to spend on each meal to avoid complete burnout.
Has any of the team members been inspired to set their own world record?
There’ve been conversations like that — although some of them might’ve been jokes. But yeah, I’m sure the cook-a-thon has gotten them thinking about what to do.
Before she stepped into the kitchen, Baci shared what she hoped to achieve with her record-breaking attempt.
You could shatter a record that seems almost impossible when you set out. What would you do with the platform and visibility?
I want to make a conscious effort to propagate Nigerian recipes across the globe. Nigerian food is so good and works with many palates. We have so many options. I want people from other countries to try our meals just like we try creamy pasta, spaghetti bolognese and the likes. At least one Nigerian meal should be part of every household’s staple.
Do you have words for young chefs who have been inspired by your cook-a-thon?
Your dreams are valid. Focus on the journey and pay no mind to what other people are doing. Be consistent; it guarantees your growth in life. You must also learn to put God first in everything you do.
What makes you feel fulfilled at this particular moment?
My journey so far, and where I’m coming from. When I think about that, it makes me happy.
Zikoko caught up with Baci three days after she broke the world record, and her joy was contagious. Here’s what she had to share:
Were you tempted to quit after breaking the existing record?
Honestly, when I broke the record I didn’t feel like my job was done. It just felt like another hour, and I knew I’d not gotten to my goal. I’d already conditioned my mind to hit a certain goal.
But after the 96th hour — your original goal — why did you push for the extra four hours? That was a surprise no one saw coming.
There was no special reason really. My friends had come to me and suggested doing 100 hours since it would make it a round figure. My brother was in on it too, so I thought about it and with the way I was feeling at the time, it was doable. I ran it through my culinary director, and he said we still had raw materials to cook for more people, so I went for it.
How did it feel to finally turn in the last meal and switch off the gas?
Relief. Just relief.
I was so happy and grateful to God. I couldn’t believe I’d gotten to that point. Just remembering how difficult it was when I started, and then, I’d gotten to that point? It felt incredible.
GWR already acknowledged your attempt. What’s the end game if you don’t get the title?
If this is about a win, I’ve already gotten a win. But I’m almost certain we’ll be recognised, and this isn’t from a place of arrogance. We did our due diligence, we followed the rules and guidelines to the T. Jason, a current record holder, was very helpful in making sure my CCTV was up and running. We also took witness statements.
I’m almost certain we’ll get it, but even if we don’t, I won’t break a sweat.
Do you plan on returning to the kitchen soon?
Of course. Sooner than you think.
I haven’t done any cooking since the cook-a-thon, but best believe I’ll get back to it soon. I own a restaurant; I have work to do.
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