Hilda Baci: The Rising Star of Nigerian Cuisine
By Yemisi Suleiman
With interactive and interesting videos of indoor and outdoor cooking coupled with stunning food shots on her Instagram feed, and a great fashion sense, Hilda Effiong Bassey is definitely one to watch.
Young, bold, and resilient, Hilda Effiong Bassey, popularly known as Hilda Baci, portrays the image of a determined lady showing diverse strengths and making a statement.
A multi-talented actress, TV producer, host, and Foodprenuer, Hilda hails from Akwa Ibom, South Eastern Nigeria, revered for its rich culture, cuisines, dressing, and folklore.
Though a woman of many parts, interestingly, however, her love for cooking was all she needed to get going. Her cooking prowess is a skill that runs through the family. After spending hours with her mother, who also owns a restaurant, preparing various recipes, Hilda and her brother would later start 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 of operating a restaurant.
Growing up for Hilda 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 one can always get steps closer to achieving their dreams with utter purpose. At an early age, she was self-aware of her capabilities and the resolve 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.
Armed with the vision to run a restaurant and food delivery, Hilda spends time on set as an actress or presenter. She starred in a couple of movies playing the supporting lead role in Dreamchaser, nominated for 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 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 has kept Hilda going. Hilda nurtured her sojourn in cooking and built the insight to be a Foodpreneur by being a TV favorite on cook 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.
She recalls 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 specialize 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 customer demands’’.
Today, Hilda 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. Before then, she operated ‘My Food by Hilda’ from a tiny apartment for the first two years while pushing most of her sales through delivery.
While on this milestone, Hilda sets the pace by preparing youngsters interested in culinary. She teaches culinary lessons online and physically; 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.’’
Hilda further encourages and empowers her students to participate actively and practice the recipes by rewarding the top students with incentives. The best student from her last class was awarded 1 million naira to support their business. Others got phones and utensils such as Microwaves, Ovens, Blenders, Pots, and toasters.
Hilda’s 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, Hilda’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 most in need.
They say food tastes better when you eat together, and Hilda is encouraging that atmosphere with plans to launch more restaurants across Lagos and Nigeria.
One step at a time, she aspires to be a leading figure in relishing our favorite delicacies beyond the shores of Nigeria. Even now, Hilda is not relenting; she is preparing to put Nigeria on the map to break the record for the longest cooking Marathon. Lata Tondon currently holds this record in 87 hours, 45 minutes cooking marathon held in India. Tagged the ‘Hilda Baci Cookathon,’ she intends to break the record in a 4-day attempt in Lagos, Nigeria.
‘‘The Cookathon has been in plans for the past five years. I have been preparing physically and mentally. Now is the time to go for this huge attempt. With the support of Nigerians and people worldwide, I believe this is achievable’’.
This effort speaks further to Hilda’s resilience and the path to many more wins.
KEYWORDS: Hilda Baci, foodbyhilda, Hilda Baci Cookathon, Hilda Effiong Bassey.