MasterChef Junior star Ben Watkins has died aged 14 from a rare form of cancer, his family has confirmed.
The young chef, who appeared on the US version of the popular cooking show in 2018, died on Monday.
TV chef Gordon Ramsay, one of the show’s judges, described Ben as “an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man”.
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
Ben came from tragic circumstances, having lost his mother and father in a murder-suicide three years ago.
His grandmother Donna Edwards and his uncle Anthony Edwards said in a statement, via his GoFundMe page: “Our Ben went home to be with his mother this afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer.
“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,” the family added in its statement.
“Ben suffered more than his share in his 14 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.”
Watkins, a fan favorite on “MasterChef Junior,” placed in the top 18 when he competed in 2018 on the show’s sixth season at the age of 11.
At his father’s restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli, Watkins would regularly help out by taking orders, working the register and even selling his own homemade treats.
Watkins’ GoFundMe was originally intended to support him and his family after his parents’ passing in 2017. Now, the money will go toward paying outstanding medical bills, said Trent A. McCain, the family’s attorney.