(CNN) — After a year of battling a rare form of cancer, former “MasterChef Junior” star Ben Watkins died this week at the age of 14, his family said.
The young chef died Monday of angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor that usually occurs in children and young adults. He was diagnosed with the disease shortly after his 13th birthday.
Watkins, of Gary, Indiana, lost his parents in a murder-suicide in 2017, according to the Chicago Tribune. He told the newspaper that he wanted to be a professional chef and one day open his own restaurant, like his father.
“After losing both parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life,” said Donna Edwards and Anthony Edwards, Watkins’ maternal grandmother and uncle, in a joint statement, posted on a GoFundMe page. called “# Love4Ben”.
‘He never complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know.
“When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was greatly encouraged by the outpouring of love he received from all corners of the world, especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana,” the family added in their statement. “Ben suffered more than his fair share in his fourteen years on this Earth, but we are comforted to know that his suffering is finally over and that, in the end, Ben knew that many loved him.”
Ben Watkins, a fan favorite
Watkins, a fan favorite on “MasterChef Junior,” made it into the top 18 when he competed in 2018 in the show’s sixth season, at the age of 11.
At his father’s restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli, Watkins used to help out by taking orders, working the registry, and even selling his own homemade goodies: cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies and banana bread, he told the Tribune in 2017.
The Fox show posted a tribute to Watkins on its Instagram page.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family,” the show wrote in its post. Ben has overcome many things in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a great role model for chefs of all ages.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, host of “MasterChef Junior,” also mourned the death of Watkins, whom he called an “incredibly talented home cook and an even stronger young man.”
“There were many difficult turns in your young life, but you always persevered,” Ramsay wrote on Twitter. “I send all my love to the Ben Watkins family for this terrible loss.”
Watkins’ GoFundMe page was originally intended to support him and his family after his parents passed away in 2017. Now, the money will go toward paying outstanding medical bills, said Trent A. McCain, the family’s attorney. .