Heartbreaking news fell over the Masterchef Junior family when it was learned that Ben Watkins, a 14-year-old former contestant, had passed away on Monday after a year-and-a-half fight with cancer. On the cooking competition, Watkins quickly grew to become a fan favorite as well as a popular competitor among the judges, including Gordon Ramsay. The world-famous chef paid his final respects to his former contestant on Twitter.
Calling him a "master" in his own way, Ramsay described Watkins, who was 11 years old when he appeared on Season 6, as "an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man." Watkins was one of just six people in the entire world to be diagnosed with a very rare cancer, Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma. In his young life, Watkins dealt with a serious medical illness and experienced tragedy after a murder-suicide involving both of his parents. "Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered," Ramsay continued in his tweet. "Sending all the love to Ben Watkins' family with this terrible loss."
We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX 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. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss Gx pic.twitter.com/RX81hP7lbw— Gordon Ramsay (@GordonRamsay) November 17, 2020
On his season, Watkins advanced into the Top 24 before eventually being eliminated in one of the chopping block competitions. Among the most notable dishes he made, Watkins won over the judges on multiple occasions, once for a fruit tart and the other for a milkshake he whipped up.
Watkins is survived by just his grandmother and uncle, both of whom looked after him after his parents' deaths three years ago. They also shared the news in a joint statement on Facebook. They called him the "strongest person" they had ever known, applauding him for never complaining when things would get tough in his life. FOX, which broadcasts Masterchef Junior, also released a statement after his passing. "It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins… Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude," the statement said. A GoFundMe was also created by his family and after just four hours and had grown to reach over half of its $300,000 goal.