Hilda Baci: I almost gave up a couple of times cooking for 100 hours
A 27-YEAR old foodpreneur and TV producer, Hilda Effiong Bassey popularly known as Hilda Baci has taken the world by storm in the longest cooking Marathon.
Setting a 96-hour record for herself, Baci went further to achieve a 100-hour cooking feat to beat the world’s current holder, Lata Tondon from India with 87 hours, 45 minutes record in 2019.
Baci embarked on a 4-day cooking marathon tagged the ‘Hilda Baci Cookathon’ which began at 4pm on May 11 and ended at 10 pm on May 15, 2023 at Amore Gardens, Lekki in Lagos. Cooking over 100 meals and feeding over a thousand people, Baci did well to showcase her culinary skills using various local and intercontinental recipes to put Nigeria on the global culinary map.
The attempt saw Baci take an hour break after every 12 hours of cooking, surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers. At the venue of the cooking were celebrities like Tiwa Savage, Banky and Adesua Wellington, Teni the entertainer, Spyro as well as the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu
The multi-talented actress and host, Baci hails from Akwa Ibom, Southtern Nigeria revered for its rich culture, cuisines, dressing, and folklore.
Growing up for Baci was delightful as she opened up opportunities to use her talent and efficiently express herself through various platforms that have gradually put her in the spotlight. Her story reveals that people can always get steps closer to achieving their dreams.
At an early age, she was self-aware of her capabilities and she resolved to make an impact. More importantly, there was the instinct for her to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, although she was unsure where to start.
Interestingly, her love for cooking was all she needed to get going. Her cooking prowess is a skill that runs in the family. After spending hours with her mother, who also owns a restaurant preparing various recipes, Hilda and her brother later started a food business called ‘My Food.’ That was during her days as a student of Sociology at Madonna University, Okija.
From being a manager at Breaking King, a breakfast company, she learned further about the requirements for operating a restaurant. She starred in a couple of movies, playing the supporting lead role in Dreamchaser, which also got nominated as best film in the Multichoice factory for the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). She also featured in prominent movies and soap operas, including Sideways, Flatmates, A Walk on the Water, and Mr. & Mrs. Robert.
In 2020, sharing the stage with Tobi Bakare, former Big Brother Naija housemate, Hilda Baci co-hosted Y’ello Star, a music reality project by MTN to discover, nurture, expose, and launch music talents in young Nigerians.
Consistency is one of the factors that have kept Baci going. She nurtured her sojourn in cooking and built the insight to be a Foodpreneur by being a TV favourite on cooking shows. From the In my Kitchen segment on Rave TV’s flagship breakfast show, Morning Rave, to being the host of Dine on A Budget on Pop Central TV, she showcased various recipes to the audience’s delight. Her cooking talent was further showcased in 2021 when she emerged winner of the Jollof Faceoff Competition challenge in Ghana, going home with a $5,000 winning prize.
Baci recalled the journey to starting the restaurant and her consistency despite the challenges: “‘At a certain point, it was obvious to me that I wanted to specialise in cooking because I enjoyed every experience I had preparing delicacies. The joy of watching people eat meals I prepared with positive comments was encouraging. So I set out to start ‘My Food by Hilda’ from a tiny apartment in Ikate, where I made home meals and delivered them to people. The increase in requests validated our capacity. At the time, I had less than a handful of people on my team, but we went the extra mile to ensure we met customers’ demands’’.
Today, Baci runs ‘My Food by Hilda”, an excellent restaurant and food delivery service in the heart of Lekki, Lagos. But it was not all smooth from the beginning. The sprawling restaurant finally opened in June 2022, resulting from the resilience of a bold and tenacious woman determined to keep her vision.
Baci also prepares youngsters interested in culinary. She teaches culinary lessons online and physically and the results have been worthwhile.
‘‘My first class was held in February 2021 with 30 students on zoom. From the success record of the teachings, I was inspired and encouraged to do more, especially as more requests kept coming from people willing to join the classes. My latest class has 1989 students, and I am teaching 120 recipes, the highest number to be taught in an online cooking class.’’
She further encourages and empowers her students to participate actively and practice the recipes by rewarding the top students with incentives. Her dedication to providing well-prepared meals extends beyond her role as a food entrepreneur as she holds a strong belief in the fundamental right of everyone to have access to quality meals.
During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baci’s unwavering commitment to social impact drove her to provide over 3,000 meals to underprivileged communities, alleviating some of the difficulties faced by those in need.
While addressing journalists’ days after her milestone cooking, Baci said: “In the beginning when I started the attempt, the first day was the hardest. I almost gave up a couple of times. As time went on, my family, friends, followers and in general the public that turned up for my attempt sort of became part of the dream and journey. Even when I wanted to give up and I saw how much people have invested their time, it dawned on me more that I wasn’t just doing this for myself.
“As soon as my 100-hour attempt was complete, I knew I couldn’t just leave without thanking everyone that supported me on this journey. Their love, presence and support were important to me both – online and offline. It helped me get through those days, those hours, those difficult moments. It was very important to me.
“I was through a lot of stress, and honestly speaking, my body didn’t feel well. My body failed me so many times, especially on the first day. Every time it did, I cried to God. I can remember that on the second day, people stayed in the rain and had an entire worship session. They stayed there, prayed and cried with me through all these hours just begging God for strength.”
She added, “I feel it was just like Nigerians watching a dream come through. Honestly, this is something that will stick with me for a long time, because there is so much negative perception about Nigerians, but truly we are such amazing people. Just give us a chance.”