The saddening news of the passing of a fan favourite from the sixth season of the highly acclaimed cooking programme ‘MasterChef Junior’ has hit the cooking community hard. Fans of the show will know Ben Watkins – who was introduced to them when he was just 11 and became the young chef who stole the hearts of many as he made it all the way up to the Top 18. Unfortunately, following his stint on the show – and just a little after his 13th birthday – Watkins was diagnosed with a rare illness called ‘Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma’, a soft tissue tumour. Watkins was one of the six people in the entire world diagnosed with this extremely rare illness. He had been undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at the time of his passing.
Watkins had been an aspiring chef and had opened Big Ben’s Bodacious BBQ and Delicatessen in the Miller Community of Gary, Indiana with his late parents, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins. Here, Watkins would help his father, working the cash register, taking customers’ orders while also selling his own homemade baked goods. Unfortunately, his parents’ tumulous relationship ended in tragedy. In what investigators have ruled as a murder-suicide, Watkins’ father fatally wounded his mother before taking his own life.
In a statement on a GoFundMe page for the young talent, his family writes:
“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 marvelled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know. When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe–especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you’ve done. Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many. #Love4Ben”
The organisers of MasterChef Junior also put up a post for the late Watkins, sharing:
“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.”
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Watkins had big dreams and also had the aspiration of becoming an Engineer. Gordon Ramsey, who hosts the MasterChef Junior show, shared his own condolences and mourned the passing of the 14-year-old.
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
Our hearts go out to his family in these trying times.