Facts About 'MasterChef Junior' Star Ben Watkins Who Passed Away Due To Rare Cancer At Age 14

Nov 19, 2020 by apost team

Masterchef Junior participant and fan-favorite Ben Watkins has tragically passed away after battling a rare form of cancer on November 16th. He was only 14 years old. Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Watkins’ passion for cooking and baking quickly made him one of the most popular contestants on Masterchef Junior’s sixth season in 2018. His death is mourned by the Masterchef program, celebrity chef Gordan Ramsay, and other fans whose hearts were touched by this talented teenager.

He Was Diagnosed With A Rare Form Of Cancer

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Ben Watkins was diagnosed with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a rare soft tissue tumor that commonly presents in children and young adults. He was diagnosed with the disease shortly after he turned 13 and spent a year and a half undergoing chemotherapy at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, reports ABC 7. In July of this year, his treatment targeted tumors in his spine, shoulder, and lung, as per reports from BBC

After his passing, his family released a statement on their GoFundMe page. “Our Ben went home to be with his mother this afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with Cancer. After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know.”

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He Lost His Parents To Tragic Circumstances

When Watkins was 11 years old, he lost both parents to tragic circumstances. In 2017, his father shot his mother and then turned the gun on himself in what was ruled as a murder-suicide domestic violence crime as per Chicago Tribune. His uncle and grandmother took over his legal guardianship afterward and helped to raise him. Despite the tragedy, Watkins pushed forward and appeared on Masterchef Junior in 2018 when he was just 11 years old. 

In the premiere episode, Ben had to battle it out with 30 other contestants who were all vying for the white apron. A place in the Top 24 would give contestants the opportunity to compete for the $100,000 prize, reports NYT. Watkins bagged the coveted white apron by presenting the judges by making a peach cobbler with whipped cream and caramel sauce.  

His Father's Restaurant Was Named After Him

While on the show, he expressed his aspiration of becoming a chef one day and owning his own restaurant, and following in his father’s footsteps. Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli in Gary, Indiana was named after Ben Watkins who also played a large part in the restaurant’s day-to-day business before it closed down. 

Along with taking orders and running the cash register, Watkins also baked his own banana bread, cookies, brownies, and cinnamon rolls to sell to customers. He credited his mother for his baking skills, "My mom taught me everything she knew. Or I just picked it up by watching her." Watkins also had dreams of becoming an engineer one day, as per Chicago Tribune

His Community Supported Him 

Watkins’ GoFundMe page was created after his parents’ death to support him and his family through their difficult time. Now, all donations will go to pay all outstanding medical bills, says the family's attorney, Trent A. McCain as per CNN. McCain said in a statement that he was also touched by the community’s support for Watkins. The New York Times reports that McCain called Watkins an inspiration, and added, “I have seen humanity and kindness up close with the outpouring of love and support Ben has received over the past three years,” 

Watkins’ uncle and grandmother also thanked the community of Gary, Indiana for their coming together to help them, “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. We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you’ve done.” 

He Has Touched Many Lives

Along with his skill and passion for all things food-related, Ben also became a fan favorite when viewers learned of his family’s tragedy and Watkins' resilience. Though he did not win the competition, Watkins made it to the top 18 contestants before leaving the show in its 5th episode. 

The Masterchef program paid tribute to Wakins in a post, saying “It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family. Ben overcame so much in his life with a remarkably positive attitude. He was a tremendous role model for chefs of all ages” 

Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef who also hosts Masterchef Junior also mourned Watkins’ death and paid tribute on his Instagram page and called him “an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man.” Ramsay continued his post by saying, “Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins' family with this terrible loss." News of his death has also led to an outpouring of condolences across the world on social media.

The family ended their statement by saying, “Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many. #Love4Ben”

Our thoughts are with Ben Watkins’ family during this difficult time. Let us know if you have any memories of Ben Watkins in the comments below and ask your friends if they might have any memories as well.

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