‘Loved by so many’: Culinary prodigy Ben Watkins, 14, dead after battle with rare disease

The culinary world received some heartbreaking news this week with the announcement of one promising young chef’s death at the age of 14.

According to reports, Ben Watkins, who rose to prominence during his appearance on the sixth season of MasterChef Junior, died on Monday at Chicago Children’s Hospital as a result of complications from angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma. 

“Outpouring of love”

Reports of his diagnosis, which is believed to afflict just a half dozen individuals worldwide, first surfaced in July.

“Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know,” his family wrote in a statement attached to the online fundraiser set up in his name. “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 family’s statement concluded by expressing gratitude toward those in their community for continued prayer and support.

“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,” the statement affirmed.

As for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the host of MasterChef Junior, Watkins’ death prompted a heartfelt statement posted this week on Twitter.

“Incredibly talented home cook”

“We lost a Master of the [MasterChef Junior] kitchen today,” he tweeted. “Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man.”

Crediting him for having “always persevered” throughout the “many tough turns” his life took, Ramsay went on to send “all the love to Ben Watkins’ family” as they mourn the loss.

Prior to his diagnosis, Watkins was impacted by another tragic incident when he lost both of his parents just days before his 11th birthday. According to the Chicago Tribune, their deaths were later determined to be a murder-suicide.

In a Newsweek article on Wednesday, the disease that led to Watkins’ death is characterized as “an extremely rare, soft-tissue tumor” typically diagnosed in childhood and young adulthood. In August, Ramsay and others from the series joined together to send Watkin’s a video message.

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