Mombasa-based chef Maliha Mohamed believes in the “each-one-teach-one” mantra.
In 2019, Ms Mohamed dared to compete in an arena that no African had ever been. She attempted to break the Guinness World record title for the longest cooking chef.
Backed by her team of 40, Ms Mohamed cooked for 75 hours non-stop. She used 400 recipes of local and international cuisines in the competition. She was, however, about 14 hours shy of the current world record holder, Chef Lata Tondon, from the small town of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh in India.
Chef Tondon cooked for 87 hours 45 minutes non-stop in 2019 to break the 2018 record of 68 hours 30 minutes 01 seconds set by Rickey Lumpkin of USA.
Although Tondon and Mohamed were thousands of miles apart, in 2019, they shared the same dream - to break Lumpkin’s record.
Mohamed, a mother of two, began her quest to have her name immortalised in the Guinness Book of World records at the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM).
She said during her first trials at TUM, she cooked 100 recipes in a 36-hour non-stop session during a weekend in May 2019.
“I was born and raised in Mombasa’s Old Town. I studied at the Alibhai Panju Primary before I joined Jaffery Academy,” she said.
Mohamed says she loved cooking from the age of eight. “I loved to cook alongside my late mother and father and during holidays with my grandmother.”
On her second attempt to break the world record in July 2019, Mohamed tried out 200 recipes in 54 hours. This was 14 hours shy of the record.
“With a team of 40 people working in shifts of 10 hours, I was confident that I would bring the record home in 2018, but I did not compete due to lack of funds,” she said.
Mohamed is confident that she could have broken Lumpkin’s record and be the worlds’ record holder, albeit for a year before Tondon could smash it in 2019.
Although she failed in her quest, she decided to help young chefs to achieve their dreams. Today, Mohamed is a cooking instructor and her class, includes newly-wedded women, housemaids and young girls.
“When I have male students, I separate classes for the two sets of gender. I hold the classes at my home in Hongera in Kisauni constituency,” she said, adding: “They say the sure way to a man or woman’s is heart is through a meal. My work is to make sure that they prepare a sumptuous meal especially the Swahili cuisine.”
This year, the Kenya Association of Women in Tourism (KAWT) gave her the Woman of Excellence in Tourism Award 2021. She was conferred the award by KAWT national chairperson, Mr Jane Adams during the event to mark their 10th-anniversary celebrations.
Mohamed took home a certificate and plaque emblazoned with the wordings, Woman of Excellence in Tourism Award 2021 for determination, resilience and passion.
“I never knew KAWT will recognise me. I am thankful for the award and recognition by this honourable group of gallant women,” she said.
KAWT Mombasa chair, Ms Janet Chamia said the organisation settled on Mohamed for her efforts. “Despite making international headlines as being Africa’s first woman chef to attempt to break the record for longest cooking chef, it is worthy to note that she is a self-taught cook and has used her knowledge extensively,’’ said Ms Chamia.
Mohamed encourages and inspires young and talented self-taught cooks and bakers to be adventurous and willing to take risks in their culinary journey.
She hopes to set up her own culinary institute similar to Le Cordon Bleu-international network of hospitality and culinary schools teaching French haute cuisine.