Fatima Ali's Devastating 2019 Death

As winner of the 2013 Food Network "Chopped" series and the official fan favorite of Bravo's Season 15 "Top Chef" competition, Fatima Ali had her culinary dreams in full sight. She aspired to open her own restaurant in New York, according to CNN, and seemingly had all the time in the world to reach her goals. Ali revealed those aspirations in a 2018 essay in Bon Appétit, but sadly she died less than four months later at the age of 29. 

The culinary community, cooking shows, and TV celebrities mourned her passing, with Bravo noting that people fell in love with her cooking, her heart, and her personality. On Twitter, Ellen DeGeneres expressed her joy at having spent time with Ali, acknowledging how she brought light into the world. Just months before she died, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and sponsor Shutterfly shelled out $50,000 for Ali to "eat her way around the world" (via Bravo). The journey was cut short, but her humble beginnings and subsequent accomplishments remain an inspiration.

She lived her life to the fullest

Fatima Ali was raised in Pakistan, departing at age 18 to live her dream life as a burgeoning chef in America. After studying at the Culinary Institute of America, she worked her sous-chef magic in New York's culinary scene, landing at Café Centro, Macy's Stella 34, and La Fonda Del Sol, according to Bravo. While her "Top Chef" debut was airing at the end of 2017, she received a devastating Ewing's sarcoma cancer diagnosis. Initial treatments were successful but short-lived.

Bringing her Pakistani roots into her cooking was important to Ali, noted CNN when describing her insecurity about how Pakistani food would be accepted. The Bravo competition put those fears to rest, reviving her passion to start a restaurant featuring the food of her heart. While that was not to be, she did spend her final months thoroughly indulging in the present, eating at dream restaurants across the globe, reconnecting with important people in her life's journey, and savoring time with her family.

Her lasting legacy

In a YouTube video posted by VOA, Fatima Ali spoke of winning the top prize on "Chopped." Noting the sacrifices that she and her family made, including putting herself through school and being away from home for so long, she stated that it was all worth it. Her biggest reward was the ability to inspire other young Pakistani girls to follow their dreams. She shared her ambition to one day return to Pakistan and facilitate affordable healthy meals for poor families while inspiring young people to learn culinary or other valuable skills.

In April 2019, US Magazine announced that Ali received a posthumous James Beard Award For Excellence. The chef's family noted on her still-functioning Instagram account that she was always meant to share joy through food, instigate critical thought, and spread love and compassion. They also fondly surmised that she was somewhere "up there" with her food heroes Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Gold, slurping delicious noodle soup and "watching over us as we remember them."