MASTERCHEF JUNIOR Competitor Ben Watkins Dies at 14
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
Ben Watkins, a beloved contestant on MASTERCHEF JUNIOR, has died at age 14.
“We were praying for a different outcome,” Ben’s uncle, Anthony Edwards, said. “But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating.”
Ben died after struggling with a rare form of cancer for the last 18 months. He was only one of six people in the world ever diagnosed with the illness known as Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma.
Ben’s family shared information about his death on a GoFundMe page.
“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 statement said. “We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you’ve done.”
Watkins competed on season six of the Gordon Ramsay-hosted cooking competition show, and he quickly became a fan favorite.
Ramsay, 54, paid tribute to the contestant on social media.
“We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today,” Ramsey wrote. “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.”
The FOX network, on which the show aired, also released a statement highlighting the light that Watkins brought to the show and those around him.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family,” FOX said. “Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages and will be dearly missed by everyone at EndemolShine North America and FOX Entertainment.”
Ben endured significant hardships during his brief life, but continued to endure with positivity.
Watkins lost his parents in a murder-suicide in which his father shot and killed Watkins’ mother before turning the gun on himself.
“After losing both his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life,” the statement said. “He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know.”
At the time, Ben was not even 11 years old, and still aspiring to be a chef. His grandmother said the young boy turned to prayer to cope with the loss.
“Ben was just. . . so selfless. It was unreal, the character he has. . . he had,” his uncle Edwards told the Chicago Tribune after his nephew’s death.
“Ben has been an inspiration to so many people. I fell in love instantly,” said Trent McCain, a family friend. “I have seen humanity and kindness up close with the outpouring of love and support Ben has received over the past three years.”
McCain previously organized a fundraiser for Ben after his parents died.
“Ben is a remarkable young man,” McCain said in 2017. “He makes a lasting impression on everyone he meets.”
McCain continued: “In his 11 years, he has had to endure more loss than any young person should. That is why we, as a community, wanted to pull together and show him that he is not alone. We love him and we will always be here for him.”
Now, McCain says, “Ben will always be remembered as a sweet, tender soul.”