Ben Watkins, ‘Masterchef Jr.’ Star, Dies At 14 From Rare Cancer
Ben Watkins, 14-year-old MasterChef Junior star, died on Monday from a rare cancer.
— Ben Watkins Family (@Love_4_Ben) November 17, 2020
“Our Ben went home to be with his mother this afternoon after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer,” Donna Edwards and Anthony Edwards, Watkins’ maternal grandmother and uncle, updated his Twitter and GoFundMe page #Love4Ben. “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.”
Watkins appeared on MasterChef Junior back in 2018, when he was just 11 years old. Fans quickly supported him not just because of his impressive culinary skills, but also his tragic family history.
Watkins’ father, Michael Watkins, owned Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli in Gary, Indiana. The restaurant was named after his son, and Watkins grew up helping his father with his work there. He not only helped out as a waiter and cashier, but also sold baked goods, which his mother taught him how to make. In September 2017, Micheal killed his wife and then himself, orphaning Watkins, who then moved in with his grandmother and uncle.
While on MasterChef Junior, Watkins said that he wanted to open his own restaurant, like his father.
Two years after his time on the show, just after his 13th birthday, Watkins was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma. Around his time on the show, he had had to have a tumor on his neck removed, but even after treatment, it would not heal. In July, he began chemotherapy treatment for tumors in his lung, spine and shoulder.
Watkins’ parents’ murder-suicide inspired the creation of the #Love4Ben GoFundMe, which was then updated to fund his cancer treatment, and is now being used to fund Watkins’ memorial and funeral.
Fans of Watkins, including Gordon Ramsey and MasterChef Junior, have taken to social media to mourn his passing.
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
“We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today,” Ramsey wrote on Twitter and Instagram. “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.”
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.
— MasterChef Junior (@MasterChefJrFOX) November 18, 2020
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Ben Watkins, a beloved member of the MasterChef Junior family,” the official MasterChef Junior account tweeted. “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 Watkins doing what he loved 👨🏾🍳🕊🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/OuDxnUHfS1
— Jeremiah 😷 (@JerryPistons15) November 18, 2020
Another user posted a clip of Ben on MasterChef Junior, captioned “Ben Watkins doing what he loved.”