Hilda Bassey. From Kitchen to Record Book
In a world filled with remarkable achievements, it takes something truly extraordinary to capture the attention of millions. That is precisely what 27-year-old Hilda Baci, daughter of a renowned caterer, accomplished when she embarked on a daring culinary journey to break the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking hours by an individual. A feat that tested her physical and mental resilience when she cooked nonstop for an astonishing 100 hours. While the record is still under review by the Guinness Book of Records, the awe-inspiring support she received from Nigerians throughout this incredible endeavour is a testament to her determination and the potential impact it holds for the culinary industry in Nigeria. Beyond the attention-grabbing headlines, Hilda’s gruelling culinary marathon symbolises something much deeper: the embodiment of discipline and commitment. Her achievement is a reminder that greatness is often born from the relentless pursuit of a passion, a message that resonates not only with aspiring chefs but with anyone striving for excellence. In this exclusive sit-down, she lets us in on the preparations and training that went into it and how the actual world record attempt went.
Congratulations, Hilda! You have done an amazing job. Could you please share with us how you first discovered your passion for cooking and what inspired you to pursue it professionally?
Thank you so much for your kind words. My passion for cooking started at a very young age. I have always been fascinated by the sights, sounds, and smells of my mother’s kitchen. Watching her effortlessly prepare delicious meals inspired me to pursue a career as a chef and open a restaurant called My Food by Hilda. This has given me a chance to hone my cooking skills better. The joy of bringing people together through food and the ability to express my creativity in the kitchen fueled my determination to make a career out of it and also teach others to cook.
So why did you decide to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘longest cooking time? Not a lot of people would consider attempting this.
Breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking time was a decision born out of my desire to push the boundaries and showcase the dedication and resilience required in the culinary field. I wanted to challenge myself and inspire others to pursue their dreams fearlessly, even if it meant attempting something unconventional or seemingly impossible.
Cooking for 100 hours is not an easy feat. What were the preparations and training you went through before embarking on this journey to break the record?
The preparations and training for such a monumental challenge were crucial. I focused on building my physical stamina through regular exercise, strength and endurance training, and a balanced diet. I also engaged in rigorous meal planning, extensive research, and practice sessions to ensure I could manage my time effectively and handle the demands of continuous cooking for an extended period while following the set guidelines by Guinness World Records.
Could you take me through the process of mentally and operationally preparing yourself for such a monumental cooking challenge?
This was a 5-year dream. I have always been obsessed with Guinness World Records since I was a kid; however, I identified the particular record I wanted to break 5 years ago.
Mentally preparing for the cooking marathon involved a combination of visualisation, meditation, and positive affirmations.
Operationally, when I conquered my mental preparation and knew I was ready to attempt to break the record, I spoke to my friend Nowe, whom I met in 2022 at one of my physical cooking classes. We became fast friends, and when I told her about it, she saw something bigger; she knew she couldn’t handle it alone. She went ahead and assembled a talented and efficient team and sold them the vision.
Additionally, I broke down the challenge into smaller milestones, staying focused on one step at a time rather than being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.
What was the experience of the Guinness World Record attempt like? What was it like to cook continuously for such an extended period of time?
The experience of attempting the Guinness World Record was both exhilarating and demanding. It tested my skills and my willpower. Cooking continuously for such a prolonged period required unwavering concentration and physical endurance. It was a true test of my resilience and determination. The support and motivation from my family and friends, my brother Gilbert, the team, supporters from all over, the performances, the energy, the visits, as well as the belief in my abilities, played a significant role in keeping me going throughout the process.
What were some of the dishes you prepared during this challenge, and did you get to taste any of them? If so, which was your favourite and why?
During the challenge, I prepared a wide range of dishes, incorporating both local Nigerian flavours and international influences. Some of my favourites included traditional Nigerian delicacies like jollof rice, egusi soup, and suya, as well as international dishes with a unique Nigerian twist. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the challenge, I couldn’t taste all the dishes. As it got even more difficult, there were many times I couldn’t taste the meals, not because I did not taste them but because I was tired and my body kept telling me to shut down because I needed sleep. I am thankful for my sous chefs, Sunny and Lola, who stepped in when I could not. For the most part, I mostly drank smoothies. However, the aroma and positive feedback from those who did sample them were incredibly rewarding.
How many dishes or meals did you prepare in your attempt to hold the new record for the longest cooking time?
I prepared a 40-course menu that covered an average of 300 dishes and fed an average of 5,000 people during the record attempt. It required a coordinated team. This team was spearheaded by the Vice President of CAPA Nigeria, Chef Gibbs Ade, who was the Culinary Director (as required in the Guinness World Record guidelines) for the Cookathon. His expertise ensured meticulous planning, effective time management, and preparation efficiency, which were all crucial to setting the record for the longest cooking time.
The support was overwhelming. How did that make you feel?
The overwhelming support I received throughout this journey was truly heartwarming. It filled me with gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility to represent not only myself but also the Nigerian culinary industry. The encouragement and belief from my fellow chefs, food enthusiasts, and the public at large were instrumental in keeping my spirits high and reminding me of the impact I could make.
What kind of impact do you believe your record will have on your personal brand as a chef and on the Nigerian culinary industry as a whole?
Achieving the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon in the world will hold immense significance for both my personal brand as a chef and restaurateur and the Nigerian culinary industry as a whole. It showcases the talent and creativity present within our culinary landscape and puts Nigerian cuisine on a global stage. By breaking barriers and highlighting the unique flavours of Nigerian cuisine, I hope to inspire more people to explore and appreciate our rich culinary heritage. From global recognition, media coverage, cultural appreciation, tourism and culinary experiences to economic opportunities, the impact of the cookathon on the Nigerian culinary industry as a whole is significant and far-reaching.
How do you think achieving the Guinness World Record will contribute to raising awareness about Nigerian cuisine and its unique flavours?
I believe achieving the Guinness World Record in the cookathon will have a significant impact on raising awareness about Nigerian cuisine and its unique flavours. This accomplishment will serve as a platform to showcase the richness and diversity of Nigerian culinary traditions to a global audience. Breaking a world record in the culinary field brings tremendous recognition and media coverage, which will draw attention to the distinct ingredients, techniques, and flavours that define Nigerian cuisine.
Did you face any doubts or moments of uncertainty during the record attempt? How did you push through and maintain your focus?
Doubts and moments of uncertainty are inevitable in any challenging endeavour, and I was no exception. However, I firmly believe that with passion, dedication, and a strong support system, we can overcome any obstacle. In those moments, I reminded myself of the purpose behind my pursuit, drew inspiration from the support around me, and found the strength to persevere and stay focused on my goal.
How did you manage to keep your creativity and energy levels high throughout the entire cooking process?
Maintaining high levels of creativity and energy throughout the entire cooking process proved to be quite challenging. To overcome this, I made good use of the limited breaks I had, prayed a lot, and used daily affirmations to rejuvenate my mind. The energy and support from everyone involved served as a powerful motivator, with performances, music, games, gifts, and even morning yoga sessions providing a continuous source of inspiration and vitality.
What kind of physical and mental toll did the record attempt take on you? What are your plans for recovery and recharging?
The record attempt took a significant physical and mental toll on me. Enduring such a rigorous cooking marathon required immense stamina and focus. I pushed my limits, both physically and mentally, to maintain the pace and quality of my cooking. As for recovery and recharging, I have scheduled ample rest and relaxation time to allow my body and mind to rejuvenate. My body has refused to shut down; I guess that’s her way of letting me know I pushed her too far.
Has this experience changed your perspective on cooking or your approach to your culinary career? If so, in what ways?
This experience has indeed changed my perspective on cooking and greatly influenced my approach to my culinary career. It has reinforced my belief in the power of perseverance and the importance of setting ambitious goals. Breaking the Guinness World Record has shown me that with determination and hard work, seemingly impossible achievements can become a reality. This experience has ignited my passion even further and motivated me to continuously push boundaries, innovate, and explore new culinary horizons.
In your opinion, what impact will your accomplishment have on aspiring chefs and food enthusiasts in Nigeria? Do you hope it will inspire more individuals to pursue their culinary passions?
I strongly believe that my accomplishment will have a profound impact on aspiring chefs and food enthusiasts in Nigeria. It serves as a testament to what can be achieved through dedication and unwavering commitment. By breaking this record, I hope to inspire more individuals to pursue their dreams, not only in the culinary world but in other industries as well. I want to encourage aspiring chefs to embrace their creativity, explore their unique culinary heritage, and showcase the diverse flavours of Nigeria to the world. This achievement is a symbol of the limitless possibilities that lie within our culinary industry, and I hope it will inspire a new generation of culinary talents to embark on their own extraordinary journeys and understand that their talent is enough to create a sustainable business and build wealth. My Food by Hilda Kitchen did not shut down for the four days I was away, and even now, while I am in recovery, it’s still fully operational.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking on a similar challenge or attempting to break a record in their chosen field?
My advice to anyone considering taking on a similar challenge or attempting to break a record in their chosen field would be to believe in yourself and your abilities. Set clear goals, create a well-structured plan, find people who believe in you, and surround yourself with a supportive team. Stay focused, dedicated, and resilient throughout the journey. Embrace the challenges and learn from them, as they will ultimately contribute to your growth and success. Remember to celebrate every milestone along the way, and never underestimate the power of passion and perseverance.
Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations as a chef? Do you have any other record-breaking endeavours in mind?
Looking ahead, my future goals and aspirations as a chef are to continue pushing the boundaries of culinary excellence. I aim to explore new culinary frontiers, innovate with flavours and techniques, and create unforgettable dining experiences. While breaking the Guinness World Record was an incredible achievement, it is not the end of my journey. I aspire to make a lasting impact on the culinary world by constantly evolving, sharing my knowledge with aspiring chefs and young girls, and contributing to the development of the Nigerian culinary industry. As for record-breaking endeavours, I am open to new challenges and opportunities that allow me to showcase my skills and push my limits further.
Finally, if you could summarise the impact you hope to make as a chef in just a few words, what would they be?
In just a few words, the impact I hope to make as a chef goes beyond the culinary world. I strive to inspire and uplift others, particularly young black girls, through the art of cooking. By sharing my culinary journey, breaking barriers, and setting new standards, I aim to leave a lasting impression on not only the industry but also on individuals who dream of pursuing their passions. I aspire to empower young black girls to believe in their abilities, embrace their unique talents, and strive for excellence in any field they choose. Through my culinary endeavours, I hope to foster a sense of representation, inclusivity, and limitless possibilities, inspiring aspiring chefs and individuals from all walks of life to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact on the world.
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