Pakistani-American Top Chef contestant Fatima Ali passed away on Friday after nearly a year-long battle with cancer. She was 29.
Ali, who moved to New York at the age of 18, rose to fame on Bravo’s Top Chef where she came in seventh on season 15 but won the Fan Favorite title when the season ended early last year. She was known for her “fun personality and excellent cooking” of food.
She was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2017 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone and soft tissue cancer. She had chemotherapy and surgery to remove a tumor and surrounding cells in her left shoulder in January 2018.
Bravo confirmed her passing in a statement. “We are deeply saddened to share the news that Fatima Ali has lost her courageous battle with cancer,” shared a representative for the network. “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.”
Fatima’s family took to her Instagram and shared a collage of her photos through the years and wrote: Fatima was at home with us, surrounded by her loved ones and beloved cat Mr Meow, when she left us in the early hours of the morning. When someone as bright and young and vivacious as our Fati passes, the only metaphor that seems to fit is that of a star —a beacon in the darkness, a light that guides us, on which to make wishes, from which to weave dreams. For all the comfort and beauty they offer us, stars, too, are impermanent. This morning a great one was snuffed out.
“Though she’s no longer here with us, her spirit will continue to steer us. We hope that you, too, will listen to her lessons: Live your life as she did — to the fullest. Pursue your passion; spread love and joy; be kind and forgiving; be generous; enjoy every morsel — from humble street food to decadent fine dining; cook for the people you love. Travel the world and seek out adventure. Help others and don’t be afraid to take the road less taken. Fatima will always be a part of us, and in fact if you look deep enough, you may find your own inner Fati. If you’re lucky enough to find her there, trust her, listen to her, because she will change your life for the better.”
The post continued, “We’ve learned a great deal over the course of her illness, not only pragmatic lessons we wish we hadn’t needed to learn about her disease and our health system, but about the immense love of which people are capable; about the power of being true to yourself; about how we can be better if we model ourselves after someone like her.
We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our now broken hearts. We’re eternally grateful for the unending support, love, and generosity shown by people along the way—from random strangers we passed on the street who would tell her how much they admire and respect her; to all her doctors and nurses who did their best; the chefs and hospitality friends who are now part of our extended family; and the big wigs that reached out to see how they can make her dreams a reality. This has been a truly humbling experience for us all and even in her last chapter as she began to leave us, Fatima showed us how we should live.”
On Jan 29, she had shared a health update on Instagram.
“I know it’s been ages since I posted and most may have figured out why,” she wrote on selfie of herself. “I’m sick and unfortunately I’m getting sicker.”
“Right now all I need are prayers; prayers that are simple,” she continued. “I hope, because a wish is putting on too much responsibility on the other, that you will somehow find forgiveness in your big heart for whenever I must have hurt you. I thank you a million times over for when you have given me joy.”
Last year, Ali appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres show where she spoke of her dreams of travelling the world and eating at her favourite places.
At the end of the interview, DeGeneres surprised Ali with a check for $50,000 from Shutterfly to help ensure that she experiences everything she wants.
To help her fulfill her dream of traveling the world in search of fine food, a GoFundMe campaign was started by #TeamFati. It raised over $95,000 and any remaining funds after her death were to be given to the Sarcoma Foundation of America.