Top Chef lost a young member of its family on Friday. Season 15 fan-favorite Fatima Ali passed away after a battle with a rare cancer. She was 29 years old.
Ali’s fellow Top Chef contestant Bruce Kalman confirmed the news on Instagram, with a bittersweet message to his departed friend. “It’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to Fatima Ali today, as she has lost her battle with cancer. I will miss you Fati, and you will be in my heart forever,” he wrote in part.
Ali came in seventh place during her season of the cooking competition show, but she was voted fan-favorite at the end of the season.
She was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer typically found in young white men, in 2017. She underwent chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free in July of 2018, only for the tumors to return in October. At that point, her doctors gave her a year to live.
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Shortly thereafter, the chef penned a moving personal essay for Bon Appetit about her plans for her remaining time. “It’s funny, isn’t it? When we think we have all the time in the world to live, we forget to indulge in the experiences of living,” she wrote. “When that choice is yanked away from us, that’s when we scramble to feel. I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world’s best restaurants, reaching out to past lovers and friends, and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before.”
She reiterated her plans on Ellen, explaining she would travel the world and taste all sorts of different foods. Unfortunately, her prognosis was much shorter than her doctors had predicted.
“I’m scared,” she wrote in her Bon Appetit essay. “I suspect I won’t last very long. There’s a faint feeling deep inside my gut like a rumble of passing air, ever expanding and filling slowly until, one day, I’ll pop. Until then, every day is an opportunity for me to experience something new.”