Masterchef Junior fans were saddened to learn that former contestant, 14-year-old Ben Watkins, had passed away after his battle with cancer on Monday. TMZ was the first to learn of the news, reporting that he was undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer after being diagnosed with a soft tissue tumor at 13. He was one of only six people in the entire world who had Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma.
Watkins appeared on the sixth season of the Gordon Ramsey-led show. That was three years ago when he was 11-years-old at the time of the competition. He made it into the Top 24 of his season and quickly became a fan favorite for his personality. That season saw Beni Cwiakala take home the top prize. Members of the show, including Ramsey, learned of his cancer diagnosis and put together a video for him to help lift his spirits. The iconic chef also paid tribute to him on Twitter, calling him "an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man." He applauded him for always persevering with each tough turn that came his way.
Many fans of the show also paid their respects to Watkins after his passing. Scroll through to see some of the tributes.
As Ramsey alluded to, not only did Watkins have tough turns in his health, he also went through a tragic murder-suicide involving his parents about three years ago. His grandmother and uncle, who wrote a joint message on social media, said they "marveled" at his strength and "love for life" amid all the hard times.
This poor kid has been through unimaginable tragedy. His father murdered his mother and then took his own life. So sad to hear this but I hope he's finally at peace with his mother. ♥️— I'm only human 🇳🇬 (@SosoTheWanderer) November 18, 2020
His grandmother and uncle are his only surviving family. In their farewell post on Facebook, they noted that he never complained about what he was going through no matter how difficult things got.
I remember him! A little gentleman in the kitchen, has such confidence. Sending love to his family as well as condolences— Steph (@HugsFromWales) November 17, 2020
On Masterchef Junior, Watkins put together some really impressive dishes. Among his most notable included a fruit tart that wowed the judges and in a different route, a milkshake that also impressed.
Jesus, this is heartbreaking.— Paul (@ZZoMBiE13) November 17, 2020
Prayers and love to his family. This must be a devastating time for them and I feel horrible for their loss. All our loss.
His run on the show lasted five episodes after taking on Gracie Howard on the chopping block elimination. Despite a shorter run then some, he quickly connected with the fans.
Sad sad news, my goodness! This sweet angel had endured so much in his short life it just breaks my heart😞 RIParadise young man— Bernice M Wallace (@Jaded_215) November 17, 2020
Outside of the show, Watkins continued to pursue a career as a chef. He was working at his family's Big Ben's Bodacious Barbecue, Baker and Deli in his hometown in Indiana, though the restaurant has recently closed.
Ben Watkins 🙏🏾 . It was a joy to watch Ben cook. My condolences to his family and friends.— NerDoc San (@eyeheartmusic) November 18, 2020
There is a GoFundMe that his family has set up in the wake of his passing. The funds will go to pay for his memorial with a goal of $300,000, a mark that was already halfway met after just four hours of being published.
Such dynamic talent! Rest in power young King💫 #BenWatkins— TishaFrench (@TishaFrench) November 17, 2020
For viewers who didn't get to watch Masterchef Junior, Watkins' season can be found on FOX Now. His season also is available on Hulu premium.prev