As MasterChef fans rallied their support around former MasterChef Junior contestant Ben Watkins following his cancer diagnosis, Gordon Ramsay reportedly "quietly" donated $50,000 to the aspiring young chef. Watkins, who had competed on Season 6 of the cooking competition, lost his battle with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma — an extremely rare soft tissue tumor — on Monday. He was 14.
Sources close to the situation told TMZ that the Hell's Kitchen star "quietly donated $50,000 to Ben in August," just after he had revealed his diagnosis, to help cover the medical costs associated with his cancer and treatments. The donation had come around the same time Ramsay and Watkins' fellow young MasterChef Junior stars sent him well wishes in a video message. They also began an effort to help raise money for Watkins with a GoFundMe campaign. That GoFundMe, initially created in 2017 to help support Watkins on his culinary path as well as becoming an engineer, has since raised more than $205,000. In the wake of his death, the money will go toward paying outstanding medical bills.
Appearing on MasterChef Junior in 2018, Watkins quickly became a fan-favorite. At the time he was just 11 years old, and after facing off with 39 other competitors, he placed in the top 18. Watkins' time after the series was marred with tragedy. In 2017, just before his season of MasterChef aired, his mother and father died in a murder-suicide. At the time, people across the country rallied their support around him and helped raise $30,000 as a trust fund for him. Just years later, and days before his 13th birthday, Watkins was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a rare form of cancer that usually afflicts children and young adults. Watkins was said to be one of only six people in the world to have the cancer. He lost his year-and-a-half-long battle on Monday, with Ramsay taking to social media to pay tribute, writing that "we lost a Master of the [MasterChef] 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. I adored our time cooking and laughing together on set," Ramsay wrote. "Heartbroken today losing my little mate, sending all my love to Ben Watkins' family with this terrible loss."
According to TMZ's sources, MasterChef is currently trying to come up with a way to honor Watkins. It is unclear what form this could take or when plans will be announced.