Ben Watkins died at the age of 14 from a rare form of cancer, after capturing the country’s attention in 2018 competing on MasterChef Junior.
Watkins reportedly died in a Chicago area children’s hospital Monday, according to the family’s attorney. Watkins had a rare illness called Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma. Only six people in the world have been diagnosed with it, according to the family.
“Our Ben went home to be with his mother this afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with Cancer. After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know,” reads a statement from the family on a GoFundMe page for Watkins.
Shortly before Watkins’ appearance on MasterChef, when he was just 11 years old, his parents both died in a murder-suicide in 2017. He was cared for by an uncle and family members, according to reports.
Just after his 13th birthday, Watkins was diagnosed with the rare cancer, with a soft tissue tumor.
Chef Gordon Ramsay posted his tribute to the young chef on social media. Ramsay hosted the cooking competition show, and worked with Watkins in season 6.
“Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss,” his tweet reads.
We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today. Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss Gx pic.twitter.com/RX81hP7lbw
— Gordon Ramsay (@GordonRamsay) November 17, 2020
MasterChef Junior posted on social media about Watkins death, saying, “Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages and will be dearly missed by everyone at EndemolShine North America and FOX Entertainment.”