Hilda Baci. Chef and influencer on social media

On May 15, 2023, at a quarter to eight in the morning, Nigerian time, Hilda Effiong Bassey, known as Hilda Baci, broke the Guinness World Record for marathon cooking – 93 hours and 11 minutes; six months later an Irish chef set a new record by enduring almost 120 hours in front of the stove.

Baci, the creator of the My Food culinary brand, created more than 100 dishes – 55 Nigerian and international recipes  – which were donated to the Fesus Fahemilo Foundation. “The first day was the most difficult”, said the popular chef after thanking the support of the thousands of people – and even musical groups – who looked out at the kitchen showcase installed on the street where she worked continuously for almost four days.

Baci’s determination seems innate. She graduated in sociology from Madonna University, in the south-eastern state of Anambra, although she had previously appeared on television programs using her culinary skills, partly inherited from her mother, Lynda Ndukwe, a renowned chef from Abuja.

Furthermore, between 2020 and 2023 she participated in three films, to the point of putting into practice one of her mantras, “Cook-a-thon”, so much so that her popularity has gone beyond the borders of the most populous country of the African continent.

Despite her young age, 27, her ability to work and commit to carrying out her projects has made Baci a point of reference for those who want to dedicate themselves to cooking. The content that she shares on YouTube, in addition to her participation in television programs in whose production she was involved, has led her to be considered an entrepreneur in the hospitality sector. The My Food by Hilda brand is valued, according to the publication Kemi Filani News, at $300,000.

Proud of her roots and aware of the richness of the culinary delights of her environment, Baci has declared in more than one interview her “insatiable thirst for learning”. Food is part of culture, social relationships and humanity, and he claims it to “understand the world around me”.

Passion and dedication are the adjectives that stand out in her environment to describe dishes that combine tradition with the improvisations of flavours that she dares to mix to generate surprise.

The kitchen at Amore Gardens, in the Lekki neighbourhood of Lagos, will not easily forget the four-day culinary extravaganza with which Baci delighted all those who encouraged her to achieve the Guinness Award. In the videos of the event, she is seen thanking the support, dancing to the rhythm of the music that cheered her up on the other side of the glass, and all of this together with a tiredness that did not take away her smile as the hours passed as she cooked non-stop.

Jealous of her personal life, she managed in the last turbulent months of 2023 to circumvent the more curious, underlining the importance of accessing education, having the support of family and friends and cultivating the personal determination that the possibility of achieving a dream always exists. “Nigerian cuisine is among the best on the planet,” she said when she won the Jollof Faceoff competition in 2021, “and it must be shared with the world.” (Carla Fibla García-Sala) – (Illustration: Tina Ramos Ekongo)