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With banku and jollof rice, Ghanian chef tries to break world cook-a-thon record

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — A chef in Ghana has been preparing banku and other regional dishes on live TV since New Year’s Day as she tries to break a world record for marathon cooking — an attempt being cheered on and widely celebrated in this West African nation.

Failatu Abdul-Razak had cooked for over 110 hours as of Friday afternoon at a hotel in the northern city of Tamale where she is aiming to break the Guinness World Record for a cook-a-thon of 119 hours and 57 minutes held by Irish chef Alan Fisher.

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Abdul-Razak “has put Ghana on the map,” said Isaac Sackey, the president of the Chefs’ Association of Ghana. “So we need to try to honor her.”

West Africa has been gripped in a frenzy of world record attempts in several categories since Nigerian chef Hilda Baci claimed the world cooking record last May with a 100-hour performance before being dethroned by Fisher.

The Guinness World Record organization has yet to publicly comment about Abdul-Razak’s attempt, which could reach 120 hours in the early hours of Saturday. Any confirmation of the feat from the organization would likely come long afterward.

Celebrities, government leaders and hundreds of ordinary people have flocked to the Modern City Hotel in Tamale where the chef’s cooking stage is set. The onlookers dance, sing and enjoy the prepared food amid the countdown to 120 hours.

Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia spoke about the attempt via Facebook earlier in the week and donated 30,000 Ghana Cedis ($2,564) to the chef.

“Go for gold,” he urged her.

Abdul-Razak had said at the outset that her attempt was a “national assignment” on behalf of Ghana and its citizens. Among dishes she has prepared are Ghana’s banku — fermented corn meal balls in a soup — as well as the spicy jollof rice enjoyed across West Africa.

“If I fail this, believe me, I have put our president, Ghanaians, people who have supported (and) groomed me, my family and friends into shame,” she said.

Under the guidelines, she is entitled to only five-minute breaks every hour or an accumulated one hour after a stretch of 12 hours.

There have been concerns raised about the endeavor’s likely mental toll on the chef. Last month, Ghanaian Afua Asantewaa Owusu Aduonum was forced to end her attempt to break the world record for the longest time spent singing, after her medical team said her body showed signs of mental stress.

It’s the “excitement” that keeps record-seekers going during their attempts, said Annabella Osei-Tutu, associate professor of psychology at the University of Ghana.

“A lot of hype has got into it, so momentarily, they are running on adrenaline. After the episode, they will perhaps start feeling the toll on their body,” Osei-Tutu said.

 

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