The owner and chef of a restaurant in Japan, Alan Fisher (Ireland), has broken two Guinness World Records pertaining to cooking.
First off, at a time of 119 hours 57 minutes, he has declared himself the individual with the longest cooking marathon. That surpasses the previous record by over 24 hours, which was held by Hilda Baci, a Nigerian cook.
With a time of 47 hours 21 minutes, Alan then declared himself the winner of the longest baking marathon (individual). With a time of 31 hours 16 minutes, Wendy Sandner (USA) held the previous record.
Even more amazing is the fact that Alan completed both efforts back-to-back, which means he worked in the kitchen for more than 160 hours without taking a day off in between!
Recreating Irish culture in Japan
On the year of his graduation from Dublin City University in 2008, Alan was looking for a challenge. By going through an overseas graduate programme, which introduced Irish graduates to companies in Asia, Alan received a job offer at a company in Tokyo.
About six years later, Alan had established himself well in Tokyo, and also met his wife (and to-be business partner). But something didn’t feel right for him.
“After the wedding, saying goodbye to 30 friends and family who came over, I remember a feeling of being trapped, thinking to myself, ‘Is this it? Is this my life now, to have kids and work in the same company?’ It was time for the next challenge.”
So in August 2014, Alan took the leap of faith and decided to start his own business; it was not difficult for him to pick Irish food and culture as the main themes of the business.
Alan’s restaurant Kyojin Stewhouse focuses on the mainstays of Irish households: stews, soups, homemade breads, and potatoes. According to Alan, customers would not only feel like they’re in Ireland, but also feel as if they are in his home.
Alan learned about the longest cooking marathon record in March while he was participating in the “I Love Ireland” festival in Tokyo. During this festival, Alan stood inside a rented kitchen car and stayed overnight twice.
During a break, he searched on the internet to find out that the record at the time was held by Lata Tondon (India) with a time of 87 hours 45 minutes. Then in May, Alan realized that Hilda Baci had extended the record to 93 hours and 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, Alan was still trying to recover from the difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When Omicron spread, a sudden dining out advisory from the local Government meant I lost all my reservations for the month of July 2022 and needed to take out a pandemic support loan just to pay bills,” he said.
“I was broke and heartbroken. To have worked so hard for so long, to give up your own savings, your own salary and then still need a loan simply to stay in business with no guarantee things will recover. That was a tough pill to swallow.”
Despite the recent easing of restrictions, Alan continued to carry this negative energy as he continued with his work. “Lata and Hilda’s achievements served as an inspiration,” he said.
In order to channel his frustration and negativity into something positive, Alan decided to take on the record-breaking journey himself.
The record attempt proved to be extremely challenging, even during the preparation phase. In particular, Alan had to make a food distribution plan so that there would be no wastage of the food he cooked. “Everything must be for human consumption. My attempt would only be successful if the people of Matsue got behind what I was doing and showed up to support the challenge.”
In addition, Alan needed to film the record his attempt for evidence. He was thankful that TSK, the local TV provider, came to help. “I know that they needed to allocate staff and resources to support this challenge. This costs time and money and is definitely not lost on me. I’m incredibly grateful to them.”
During the record attempt, Alan had to overcome different types of obstacles as time went by. During the longest baking marathon (individual) record attempt, it was his back that caused him trouble. Because Alan was mixing dough by hand, his posture got distorted, and as a result, his back got tight and sore.
Towards the end of the longest cooking marathon (individual) record attempt, Alan had to endure fatigue and sleepiness. “I peeled roughly 300 kg of potatoes during the cooking marathon. For the first few days, I would look forward to this each evening as it gave me a chance to sit down.”
“Towards the end of the cooking marathon however, as fatigue started to take hold I would find it more and more difficult to stay awake whenever I sat down to start peeling. The rhythm of the peeling would almost hypnotize me. I had one hallucination on the second-to-last day. I turned to ask someone to pass me something, like I would on any normal day only to realize there was no one there.”
Despite the challenges, Alan says it was the people of the town who supported his record attempt who gave him the push to carry on.
“It got to the point where I definitely couldn’t give up. In my mind, I was representing myself, my family, and Irish food, and through these attempts, I was sharing our story. As time went by it became clear that many people in Matsue were also wishing me well. As if I had been adopted into this community over 9,000 km from my home. How could I not persevere? That was the only option.”
After nine days of baking and cooking, Alan had made 357 kg worth of soda bread and 590 kg worth of dishes (3,360 portions consisting of 32 recipes). But it was all worth it when he received his two world record certificates.