Two weeks after returning to social media to say that her health was worsening, Fatima Ali, a contestant on Season 15 of Top Chef, has died. She was 29.
Bravo provided a statement from the Top Chef family to Yahoo Entertainment: “We are deeply saddened to share the news that Fatima Ali has lost her courageous battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time. People not only fell in love with her cooking, but fell in love with her personality and heart. We hope that the beautiful memories shared with her will provide comfort to everyone who knew and loved her.”
— Bravo (@BravoTV) January 25, 2019
Bruce Kalman, one of her castmates on last year’s Colorado-based installment of the Bravo cooking competition, on which she was voted “Fan Favorite,” sent a heartfelt message to Ali on Friday morning.
After leaving her native Pakistan at 18, Ali moved to the United States to attend the Culinary Institute of America. She graduated and went on to work as a sous chef in New York City, where, at one time, she was the youngest person to serve as an executive sous chef in her company. Her TV work also included the Food Network’s cooking competition Chopped, where she was the first Pakistani woman ever to compete, and which she won. Her official bio for Top Chef said she “wants to pioneer the movement of eclectic, modern Pakistani cuisine, melding the bold flavors and spices she grew up on, with the modern techniques of her training.”
Ali was diagnosed with bone and soft-tissue Ewing’s sarcoma in 2017, and she was open about how the experience affected her. Although she underwent successful treatment, she found out in September that the cancer had returned.
“The cancer cells my doctors believed had vanished are back with a vengeance in my left hip and femur bone,” the chef wrote in an October 2018 essay for Bon Appetit. “My oncologist has told me that I have a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen. I was looking forward to being 30, flirty and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose.”
In the final months of her life, Ali reunited with some of her former Top Chef co-stars. She thought about writing a book. She was a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and talked about wanting to travel, but she was still ill. She was soon sidetracked with doctors and medicine and hospitals, and she disappeared from social media in late December.
Ali resurfaced this month, when she gave her heartbreaking update and asked for prayers.
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