ABIODUN NEJO writes that the last has not been heard of Ekiti student chef, Damilola Adeparusi`, who came to the limelight for the unprecedented feat of cooking non-stop for 120 hours, a singular act, which has captured people’s attention and turned her into a star
For 22-year-old Damilola Adeparusi, popularly known as Chef Dami, a 300 Level Mass Communications student of the Federal University of Oye Ekiti, Ekiti State, her friends, admirers, and relations, Tuesday, 13th June 2023, when she broke the 100 hours recently recorded continuous cooking time, was a crowning moment in her bid to set a new world record.
That was, incidentally, the day the attempt of celebrity, Nollywood star, and chief executive of My Food by Hilda, Hilda Bassey, also known as Chef Baci, to break the world record for Longest Cooking Marathon was affirmed by the Board of the Guinness World Record.
Although Baci cooked for 100 hours last month, the board, while affirming her as the current holder of the GWR record, announced 93 hours 11 minutes for her, having subtracted the remaining for violation of break time, to displace the erstwhile holder, Lata Tondon of India, who cooked for 87 hours 45 minutes in 2019.
But Dami, who had a fortnight ago taken to her Twitter handle to announce, “We are coming for the GWR”, began a five-day 120 hours cooking marathon at Ilupeju Ekiti in the Oye Local Government Area at exactly midnight on Friday, June 9.
When the news and pictures of Dami’s cook-a-thon started appearing on social media platforms, many took it for a joke, especially because the Ekiti student chef was unknown, believed to be ill-prepared, and not seen to have the capacity to go the whole hog.
An Ado Ekiti resident, Jide Adebayo, who went to Ilupeju Ekiti on Saturday for observation, said what he saw with the event organized by Spirit Word Global Mission was not that impressive.
Adebayo said, “The location where the student chef is targeting to cook for 120 hours is not properly ventilated to make the task easy for her. There is no standby medical personnel in case of any unforeseen circumstances, nor regular security men except a few bouncers.
“Again, the building is being powered by a generator 24 hours a day, giving rise to the fear that the student chef may not be able to bear the cost for 120 hours at N500 per litre of petrol,” he said, expressing disappointment that “neither any state government nor FUOYE officials had visited Chef Dami to give her any encouragement or support over 30 hours after she began cooking.”
“Besides, there were divided opinions on whether it was right for Dammy to have begun the bid to set a new 120 hours record when the GWR was yet to officially affirm the 100 hours record set by a fellow Nigerian chef, Baci, hence a barrage of criticism.
These were in addition to the issue of whether the student chef applied to GWR and got approval from the body or not before embarking on the marathon cooking.
Those opposed to Dami’s bid were of the view that she ought to have waited for GWR to affirm Baci’s record and as well allow gap of some months or years before attempting to break it or look inwards, be creative, or research into other available records to break.
The social media was awash with criticisms of Dami’s effort, insults hurled at her and negative opinions as some even derided her to put off her stove in return for a cash gift to quit the competition, which they interpreted as a move to rubbish Baci’s effort.
But another set, which supported Dami’s move, continued to encourage her to move on undistracted, saying records were meant to be broken and new ones set by hardworking groups and individuals.
A celebrity, Comedienne Maraji, in her post on Instablog, faulted those condemning Dami, saying, “I don’t see anything wrong in what Chef Dami is doing. Life is a competition. You don’t see musicians waiting for other musicians to allow their songs to get to number one on the chart before releasing theirs. Nobody waits for anybody.”
Maraji, who expressed sadness that most of the people criticising Dami were women, said, “For a long time, women have not been inspired to do anything, but it is now that women are aspiring to break records in Nigeria and people are against her.”
She said there were records of two individuals from the same country who had moved to break the same record, saying, “So, what this lady from Ekiti is doing is nothing new.”
Amid the division, Baci, on her Twitter handle, saluted Dami’s courage, saying, “The beauty of dreams is that they are unique to each individual. Dami, your boldness to take on a cooking challenge shows that passion knows no limits. Embrace the journey, learn from every experience, and inspire others with your unwavering spirit.”
And Dami, in her Twitter handle, as she cooked for 120 hours, continued to seek prayers from Nigerians, displaying spirit and strength to accomplish the task, saying, “We keep moving, nothing is stopping Dami. We are surely reaching the 120-hour goal.
“I am still standing strong because of you. Yes, yes, you. Your support and criticism keep me going. Dami will make Nigeria and Ekiti proud, please stick with me on this journey,” she stated.
With the passage of time, the support for Dammy, which students of FUOYE from Oye Ekiti and Ikole campuses began for one of their own, continued to grow as male and female, young and old thronged Ilupeju Ekiti to identify with her.
The guests described the cook-a-thon as publicity for the cultural heritage of Ekiti and a motivation to other creative and vibrant young people in the state and country.
A FUOYE student, who introduced himself simply as Yomi, and who said he was at Ilupeju on three occasions to cheer up his schoolmate, said that food prepared by the student chief included fried rice, jollof rice, yam and egg, porridge, beans, okra soup, egusi soup and vegetable soup.
A former Commissioner for Works in Osun State, Mr Remi Omowaiye, who on Sunday last week donated N100,000 to Dami’s cause, rallied support for her.
Omowaiye, who said more Nigerians, especially Ekiti State indigenes in the diaspora, had shown interest in supporting Dami, confirmed that a United States-based Ekiti indigene, Ayodeji Arojo, had offered the student chef a two-week tour of the US.
Members of a non-governmental organization, Alimosho Bikers, led by their president, Mr Akinsola Akinseye, who was in Ekiti on a tour, were taken to Dami’s kitchen by a renowned photojournalist and Chief Executive of Row Multi-Biz Prof Global Company, Mr Olabode Wilson Rawa.
Akinseye said, “We are from Lagos to support Damilola. We have seen a lot of things around, the people are fantastic, delicious food, very exciting sites, hills, rocks, and waters, but we are more excited by the activity of Chef Dami. The food meets world standards. She is contributing to youth development in her little way.”
Also speaking, Rawa, who lauded the chef for making the state proud, called on those condemning her attempt to think logically and join the positive train of encouraging youths ready to take on intuitions for creativity.
Also, the wife of Ekiti State Governor, Dr Olayemi Oyebanji, who commended Dammy’s audacity, said she was personally impressed, saying, “The last 70 hours have been about Chef Dami, a determined Ekiti undergraduate, who is making a bold attempt to break the world record for the longest cooking marathon.
“For me, it’s her courage and determination to stand for something positive, using her God-given talent to make a statement. Miss Damilola Adeparusi, surely has our love and support as she forges ahead to make this bold statement,” she said.
The Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Adeoye Aribasoye, who urged the chef not to be distracted by criticisms in some quarters, said that the young cook was pursuing a legitimate ambition and should be encouraged and supported to achieve same.
Aribasoye said, “She is an Ekiti ambassador, who represents Ekiti’s core values of integrity, hard work, enterprise and industry. She is a role model to our youths, we are solidly behind her, and we believe in her ability to achieve her dream”.
Also, FUOYE’s VC, Prof. Abayomi Fasina, who led the council and management members to visit the chef in the kitchen, where he donated N200,000 as support, said, “We are very glad about your resilient spirit in achieving greatness by showcasing your skills and talents as a chef.
“You have made us proud globally by showing to the world that we have students who have been well tutored and inspired to take up the gauntlet and achieve greatness with their God-given talents and skills.
“In FUOYE, we motivate to innovate. We encourage our students to pursue their dreams with sound and functional education, which we painstakingly impact our students, and you are a shining example and testimony of the hard work of our dynamic lecturers,” the VC said.
An elated Chef Dami said, “Cooking gives me joy. The five-day cooking was an interesting experience, but I must say it was exhausting because I was on my feet throughout the five days. I was not expecting something big as the event turned out to be, I thank God. My thought was, let’s cook for this particular time and play and have fun.”
The Mass Communication student, who said “Cooking is one thing I enjoy doing. I love cooking, especially when the ingredients are complete,” added that the marathon cooking was just a moment for her to do what gave her joy and not about GWR.”
She said, “After being exposed to the world and put in the spotlight, Dami is open to explorations.
“I am open to new opportunities and new experiences in life. Now that the world knows what I am capable of doing, I think it is high time everyone started giving me a chance to explore in diverse ways and capabilities.”
She said that coming from the experience and “After the support I have received from fans, well-wishers and many highly notable individuals in society, I and my team have decided to hold another cook-marathon programme. This time it will be for 150 hours, and it will be duly registered with GWR. Chef Dami is coming back.”