What drew Nigerians to Hilda Baci’s cooking marathon wasn’t just the possible triumph of a new world record but the allure of audacious hope.
On 02 April, 2023, Nigerian chef and restaurateur, Hilda Baci (born Hilda Effiong Bassey) announced her plan to break the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual. In a social media post, Baci stated that she had been ‘planning this for five whole years.’ This record is currently in the hands of Indian chef, Lata Tandon. On 07 September 2019, the London-based chef broke the previous record of 68 hours 30 minutes and 01 second when she cooked non-stop for 87 hours and 45 minutes. On Monday morning, Baci smashed this record and went on to cook for over 100 hours (for every one hour on her feet, she had five minutes of rest).
Baci is not new to cooking competitions; she took part in the inaugural Jollof Face-off Competition in 2021 where she secured top spot, taking home the prize of $5000. Since Baci began her quest at 4 p.m. last Thursday and turned off the stove at around 8 p.m. on Monday, she has continued to receive support from Nigerians.
A PENDING WORLD RECORD?
Following Baci’s success at surpassing the current world record time, the Guinness World Records has acknowledged her effort. In response to questions on confirmation of her feat, the official Twitter handle of the global record keeper stated that, ‘we’re aware of this amazing record attempt, we need to review all the evidence first before officially confirming a record.’ A Guinness World Records spokesperson also stated that: ‘We are aware of the record attempt and are looking forward to receiving the evidence for our Records Management Team to review, before we can confirm the record is official.’
Typically, to enter for a world record, the institution, Guinness World Records, has to check an idea against the records in their database. Following this, an individual can then confirm if the record has been accepted with the title of their choice or has been rejected. If approved, the participant will receive an information packet with record guidelines outlining the requirements for the record, as well as the proof to authenticate the effort. The duration of this phase is determined by the type of application selected.
According to Guinness World Records, ‘it can take up to 12 weeks for us to review your documentation and let you know if your record attempt has been accepted as the new record holder or rejected.’
As an alternative, one can pay for a Priority Evidence Review service to have the evidence reviewed first and have the record attempt approved or rejected. The Priority Evidence Review service will guarantee that the evidence is evaluated within five working days. This service costs £350 / $550 US / €440 (plus VAT where applicable).
A NEW CULT HERO
Once Baci’s impressive attempt is confirmed by the Guinness World Records, she will join a host of other Nigerians who have their name written in history. For instance, in 2013, Stephen Keshi became the youngest person to win the Africa Cup of Nations as a player and coach. He achieved this at 52 years and 10 days when he won the tournament as head coach of Nigeria at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa.
In 2021, Bose Omolayo broke the record for the heaviest Para power lift by a female in the -79 kg category. Omolayo achieved this feat at the World Para Powerlifting Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 2 December 2021. In 2021, Bayo Omoboriowo, the president’s official photographer, also secured the record for the largest photo book, measuring 60.84 m² (654 ft² 87 in²).
Afrobeats sensation, Ayodeji Balogun (popularly known as Wizkid), also has numerous world records under his belt. His 2016 collaboration with Drake, One Dance, became the first song to reach one billion streams in Spotify history. In 2021, he became the individual with the most Artist of the Year awards won at the All Africa Music Awards.
While Nigerians await Guinness World Records’ review of Baci’s cooking marathon attempt, it is only right to praise the tenacity and courage of the restauranteur, who has spent five years preparing for this moment. Baci’s feat has the potential to inspire people across the country and beyond.
BACI’S WIN IS OUR WIN
Since Baci announced her desire to beat the current world record, she has garnered support from friends and family, and even more importantly, many Nigerians who until she began her daring feat had not heard her name before. Hundreds of people, including celebrities, religious clerics, and government officials, trooped to the venue to cheer for Baci and encourage her to keep going. On 14 May, Baci’s team announced that the venue hosting the cooking marathon had reached full capacity and for security reasons, the gate would be shut. The outpour of love was so immense that supporters stayed on even while it was raining. Others kept on monitoring her progress and sharing supportive messages on social media. How was Baci able to garner massive support from Nigerians?
As revealed above, Baci is not the first Nigerian to attempt a world record. However, it is not far-fetched to say that her journey has attracted the most attention. I think this is due to the inspiring nature of Baci’s journey. Baci had been preparing for this moment for five years. She had also undergone physical training to keep up with the long hours of standing and mobility that the feat required. She persevered until her planned 96 hours and even extended the duration to 100 hours. While this is my personal opinion, others have reacted to what Baci’s feat means to them.
Reacting to Baci’s achievement, university student who was present at the venue with friends, Wisdom Oluwaseyi, spoke to The Republic. He said: ‘I did not know Hilda Baci before now. But after seeing the buzz online, I was curious to know more after she successfully completed 24 hours of cooking. On getting there, on the second day of the attempt, I was surprised at the level of support present at the venue.’ Oluwaseyi also felt inspired while watching Baci, ‘clearly she was tired, but at some point, she continued to dance, and smile, and wave back to people in the crowd.’
Victoria Sam, who was at the location on two different days, said she was present ‘not because I did not have other things to do, but I felt Hilda needed all the support she could get in order to break the record.’ ‘And when she completed 100 hours, I felt emotional when I saw her praying. It is good to say that I was a part of history,’ she added.
Baci’s also received support at both federal and state government levels. On Sunday, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited Baci and had a taste of some of the meals she prepared. ‘Her dedication, passion for cooking as well as her desire to put our rich culture on the map by not only exhibiting our food but also the resilience, determination, energy and team spirit that has come to be known as the spirit of Lagos and indeed Nigeria is truly remarkable.’ Governor Sanwo-Olu tweeted. In an official message, President Muhammadu Buhari also shared a congratulatory message to Baci for surpassing the 87 hours and 45 seconds record. ‘A great day for Nigeria. We’re all very proud of what she has personally accomplished—and placing Nigeria in the global spotlight Baci’s drive, ambition and resilience have brought great interest and insight into the uniqueness of Nigerian food.’
Baci has not only succeeded in breaking a record, but she has continued to spread the gospel of Nigerian food. Most importantly, she has succeeded in inspiring hope and resilience and shown the world that Nigerians would always support their own⎈
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