'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi Reminisces About Late Contestant Fatima Ali: 'I've Never Met Anybody Like Her'

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is reflecting on her friendship with Fatima Ali, who passed away following a battle with Ewing's sarcoma.

Appearing on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen on Wednesday night, the Bravo show host reminisced about Ali, who passed away last month, recalling her favorite memory with the former contestant and the tough love she gave during a Quickfire Challenge.

"On the show, I would say the moment that she realized that she could treat her flavors from where we are from, south Asia, the same way that she treated western cuisine — that was a lightbulb moment for her," she recalled.

"It was during a Quickfire when I knew she could do better and I knew she could take it and I don't usually lay into contestants that way," Lakshmi continued. "I remember even my producer saying to me, 'Go easy, and I just like blurted out, 'Cut it out of the show,' because I thought that she would benefit from that kind of straight talk and later, after the show obviously, we spoke about it and she just said, 'Yes, thank you. I want somebody to tell me straight,' and she was very ambitious."

"She was tenacious. I've never met anybody like her," Lakshmi said. "After the show, I became very close to her and her family."

Ali, who appeared on Top Chef Season 15 and was voted the fan favorite chef, had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017 while her season of the Bravo series was airing, but by early 2018 she was deemed cancer free. In an essay published in Healthyish in October, however, she revealed that her cancer had returned in September.

"My oncologist has told me that I have a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen," she wrote. "I was looking forward to being 30, flirty, and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose."

Ali passed away at her family's home in San Marino, California on Jan. 25. Following her death, Lakshmi paid tribute to her "lil' sis" on social media, sharing a video set to Carole King's "So Far Away."


"Goodbye lil' sis. One of our brightest stars has fallen from the sky," Lakshmi wrote, concluding her post with a quote from Ali.

"I dream of being better. I dream of being myself again, but I know I'll never quite be the same, and that's okay," the quote read. "I know I'll be different, and, despite the worry that settles into me every time I wake up, I look forward to meeting that woman one day."