Ben Watkins, a former 'MasterChef Junior' contestant, dies of cancer at 14

After a year of fighting 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 on Monday of Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor usually in children and young adults. He was diagnosed with the disease shortly after he turned 13.
Watkins, from Gary, Indiana, lost both his parents in a murder-suicide in 2017, according the Chicago Tribune. He told the paper that he wanted to be a professional chef and one day open his own restaurant, like his father.
“After losing both of his 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 to a GoFundMe page called “#Love4Ben.”
    “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 fourteen 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 — 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 program wrote in its post. “Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages.”
    Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, host of “MasterChef Junior,” also mourned Watkins, calling him an “incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man.”
      “Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered,” Ramsay wrote on Twitter. “Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss.”
      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.

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