“No, it is not true at all. He does not hold the GWR title, and that is not our certificate.” This email from Madalyn Biefield, Public Relations Manager of Guinness World Records, splashed eggs on the faces of Ghanaian media. How could Chef Smith serve us a spicy tale, and how did we all fall for it? How could such a large-scale deception have taken place? The answers lie in a combination of social media virality, a compelling narrative, and the inherent trust people place in what appears to be official documentation.

A “thon” pandemic hit the Africa continent and Ghana late last year when in June 2023, Nigerian Chef, Hilda Baci entered the annals of the Guinness World Record for the Longest Cooking Marathon by an Individual, setting a then-new record of 93 hours, 11 minutes usurping the previous record of 87 hours 45 minutes set by Indian National, Lata Tondon in 2019.


Unfortunately, Baci’s record will be short-lived, as in less than 6 months, Irish Chef, Alan Fisher dethroned her for the longest individual cooking marathon, setting a new feat of cooking for a continuous 119 hours and 57 minutes in his restaurant in Japan.

But while Baci’s record failed to stand the test of time, her feat spurred an endless array of attempts by many across the continent hoping to either outdo her or create their own legacy with another longest streak.

Ghana in particular saw, Afua Asantewaa Aduonum, attempt the longest singing marathon, which became a highlight of the country’s Christmas festivities lasting for about 127 hours. Then came Chef Faila Abdul Razak’s 227-hour cook-a-thon attempt as a new year’s gift. The “thon” pandemic, also included a Stand-a-thon, read-a-thon, talk-a-thon and most recently, a khebab-a-thon. Unfortunately, all these attempts were unsuccessful leaving Ghana at the mercy of mockery and social media trolls by its’ noisy West Africa “neighbor”, Nigeria.

After months of silence on Ghana’s attempt to set a “thon” record, 2nd July, 2024, seemed like the day destined for glory. Media houses were invited to cover a press conference for the award of a news Guinness world record for the longest cooking marathon to one Millennium Chef Smith who supposedly dethroned Alan Fisher’s 119 hours, 57 minutes, to set a rather unimaginable new record of 802 hours 25 mins.

But why was Millennium Chef Smith’s achievement a big deal? Ebenezer Smith as he is formally known began his attempt at cooking for 1000 hours on February 1, 2024. Unlike other record attempters who had large crowds, social media hashtags trending in support and even senior government officials and politicians offering various forms of support, Chef Smith’s workstation at the Amadia Shopping Mall on the Spintex, community 18 road, rarely had any form of crowd in attendance (possibly partly due to the end of the festivities or a general fatigue by Ghanaians at these unsuccessful attempts). But Chef Smith believed even without support he was going to be the shining star for Ghana. His team would soon announce they had crossed the 100-hour mark, then 200, and on and on. Each passing day came with an ever-reducing crowd and after 33 days, Chef Smith and his team announced the end of the attempt, with a claim of cooking for 820 hours.

This was met with a mixed reaction on social media with some alleging, the chef usually closed at about midnight each day and resumed cooking before sunrise and his few “fans’ showed up as a way building his cooking hours. Well, considering the skeptism and pessimism that surrounded Chef’s Smith attempt, to hear the rejected stone was about to be the cornerstone certainly must have been such a big deal you must admit.

Held at the plush La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, by half past 3pm, it was clear to journalists that rushed to cover the press conference that this was no hearsay. The crème de la crème of media houses had their microphone stands and cameras placed strategically to capture this moment. Within minutes the announcement was made that Chef Smith had set a new record and a certificate presented to him as evidence of the feat.

The “confirmation” received was at the point the biggest news in town and every media house tried to break the achievement to its audience. In no time, news cards, flyer, videos and articles circulated on social media rapidly. The state broadcaster and newspaper, GBC and Daily Graphic led the way. Oldest private media house, Joy News, following suit, GHOne TV, Citinewsroom, TV3, Ghana News Agency, Asaase Radio equally playing their role in trumpeting the record.

With news blogger and blog posts carrying the good news further, the netizens were to eat their humble pie as collectively, the nation celebrates the man who was flying the country’s flag high.

Celebrating one of our own was an utmost priority as nothing else mattered. But the netizens will have the last laugh. Asking critical questions at such time is likely to be misconstrued as being hateful, but they had to be asked.

Where was the confirmation of the record on the social media pages of the Guinness World Record or its website? Considering the buzz, that greeted the announcement of Hilda Baci’s record in 2023 and her subsequent dethroning by Alan Fisher, wouldn’t the GWR equally do same for Chef Smith? Where questions the followed. For to have broken a record at 119 hours and set a new one at 802-hour definitely wasn’t something the GWR would push under the carpet.

Evidently something was off so there was a need to investigate the claim. A first search on the websitehttps://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-cooking-marathon-(individual), asserts Alan Fisher remains the record holder for the longest cooking marathon with his record set in October 2023. The GWR additionally adds, “This record is currently inactive and no applications are being accepted for it.”

The next option was to send an email to the organizers, hoping to validate the record. But while waiting for an email confirming the misgivings, a cursory look at the certificate presented as Chef Smith’s raised even more suspicions.
This necessitated some more scrutiny and analyzing the fine details of over a dozen other certificates issued by the GWR. The contrast was startling and the following discrepancies found.

1.⁠ ⁠Whereas Chef Smith’s certificate had its text in pure black, the text from the official certificates issued has never black. It usually is written in a shade of blue.

2.⁠ ⁠In the past the inscription CERTIFICATE above the record details came in black, however for the certificates issued this year, the CERTIFICATE inscription is written in a dark shade of blue. Chef Smith’s was written in plain black.

3.⁠ The Guinness Record is usually issued as a plain certificate with award winners opting for some frame if they so decide, ⁠however, the certificate issued in recent year’s only have a single outer border line. Chef Smith’s certificate another border line outside what should have been the only original border.

Then came more discrepancies in the text output.

  1. ⁠The unit of measurement on official certificates is always abbreviated. mins, hr, m, ft, etc.. Smith’s certificate had 802 HOURS 25 MINUTES, with the unit of measurement fully spelt out.
  2. The certificate puts the holder’s country i.e (Ghana) and not his/her nationality (Ghanaian) when it speaks of where the holder is from. The use of “Ghanaian” in the certificate presents another challenge.
  3. ⁠Finally, with Hilda Baci and Alan Fisher’s certificate, the last sentence which speaks to the date of the event, comes with a “,” after the country with the “f” in FROM starting with the small letter. Smith’s certificate’s use of From is inconsistent.

When the reply from GWR hit the mail that Chef Smith had “cooked” his certificate it was not surprising. It only confirmed our collective lax in verification.

The Ghanaian media’s role in perpetuating the hoax cannot be overlooked. Eager to share a positive story, journalists and news outlets failed to perform due diligence. The allure of breaking an exciting story led to a collective lapse in journalistic standards.

The Chef Smith saga serves as a cautionary tale for both the media and the public. It reminds us to be skeptical and always verify especially in an era where misinformation can spread rapidly.

Chef Smith added the media to his ingredients, overly cooking them and leaving a bitter taste in their mouths for weeks to come.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Edem Kojo