Heartbreaking: Masterchef Junior Star Ben Watkins Dead at 14
He was known to those who loved him as "the kid who could just light up a room." And although he didn't make it beyond the Top 18 in Season 6 of MasterChef Junior, Ben Watkins was a group favorite.
And when it was discovered that he had a very rare, aggressive cancer, the cast of MasterChef Junior Season 6 got together and recorded an adorable video to cheer on one of their own, including the show's hosts, Gordon Ramsay, Christina Tosi, and Aarón Sanchez.
But despite the well wishes, Ben Watkins, who was diagnosed with a rare disease known as Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, has tragically died at the age of 14.
Until he was diagnosed with his illness — which has reportedly only afflicted six people around the world — Ben was part of the restaurant scene in Gary, Indiana.
The young chef cooked and worked behind the counter at Big Ben's Bodacious BBQ and Delicatessen, the restaurant which belonged to his late parents, even as he underwent chemotherapy. The illness left Ben suffering from aggressive tumors on his spine, shoulder, and lung, and he was being treated at the Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Ben became part of MasterChef Junior's Season 6 when he was just 11 years old, and he was known for his fruit tarts and milkshakes. Unfortunately, while he was a fan favorite, he was eliminated during the show's fifth episode.
Ben tragically lost both his parents in a murder-suicide in 2017, when his father Michael Watkins shot and killed his mother Leila. Since that tragedy, though, he has remained strong.
His grandmother and uncle announced Ben's passing in a statement posted on Facebook, in which they called Ben the strongest person they know, and thanked fans of the young chef for supporting him throughout his life.
Watkins' family has set up a GoFundMe page, titled the #Love4Ben Memorial Fund, for well-wishers to contribute to those surviving the terrible loss. His family also encouraged fans to remember Ben by watching his season of Masterchef Junior on Hulu.
As the news of Ben's passing spread, condolences poured out from those who knew him.
Ben's Indiana community has rallied around his family in their time of need.
Others shared clips from Ben's season, including one where Ben described how his signature dish — chocolate cake with a mango simple syrup, reflected his own personality.
We wish Ben Watkins' friends and family all the best during this difficult time.
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