How did MasterChef Junior Ben Watkins die? Gordon Ramsay says 'we lost incredibly talented cook'
Ben Watkins, star of ‘MasterChef Junior’ Season 6, who delighted fans and judges with his culinary skills, died on Monday, November 16, at the age of 14. Watkins reportedly died after an 18-month battle with an extremely rare form of cancer called angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor most commonly occurring in children and young adults.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Watkins often told Anthony Edwards, his uncle, and legal guardian, that he felt as if he was being “tortured” by the pain of his disease and its treatment. “We were praying for a different outcome,” Anthony said after Watkins’ death. “But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating.”
Watkins was part of the 2018 season of ‘MasterChef Junior’. He was 11-years-old at that time. He, along with fellow contestant Gracie Howard, was eliminated from the show in the fifth episode, titled ‘Recipe for Love’. In addition to his TV appearance on the Gordon Ramsay-hosted show, Watkins also cooked at his family’s now-shuttered restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue, Baker & Deli in Indiana.
Watkins’ life was one pockmarked with tragedy. Nearly three years ago, his parents died in a murder-suicide. On September 16, 2017, Watkins’ father, Michael Watkins, shot and killed the child’s mother, Leila Edwards, before taking his own life in their home. Leila Edwards' mother Donna Edwards, and Watkins’ uncle Anthony told the press that they saw no warning signs for this. The couple was reportedly talking about getting a divorce. “It's been an obvious adjustment for Ben, but he's doing well, considering everything," Anthony had said back then, sometime after the incident. "We take it one day at a time."
On social media, Watkins’ uncle and grandmother wrote, “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. Ben suffered more than his share in 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.”
“After losing both 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,” the post added.
According to the Chicago Tribune, when Watkins was first diagnosed, one of his doctors began writing a medical paper on his rare disease. While the doctor didn’t use Watkins’ name because of patient confidentiality rules, Watkins reportedly said, “You can use my name. Do whatever it takes. I don’t want another kid to have to go through what I’m going through.” Watkins and his family also consented for tissue to be extracted from his cancerous tumors after his death, to be shared with researchers.
World-renowned chef and ‘MasterChef’ host Gordon Ramsay shared a heartfelt message about Watkins after his death. He wrote on Twitter, “We lost a Master of the @MasterChefJrFOX kitchen today. Ben, you were an incredibly talented home cook and an 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.”
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