Padma Lakshmi Reflects on Fatima Ali's Passing: "She Didn't Even See Her 30th Birthday"

Padma Lakshmi Reflects on Fatima Ali's Passing: "She Didn't Even See Her 30th Birthday"

The Bravo's Top Chef host will always remember the late Season 15 contestant as "one of our brightest stars."

By Laura Rosenfeld

In the weeks following Fatima Ali's passing at the age of 29 on January 25, the Bravo's Top Chef Season 15 Fan Favorite winner has received touching tributes from just about every member of the Top Chef family and beyond

Padma Lakshmi had especially been by Fatima's side throughout her battle with Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone and soft tissue cancer. But the Top Chef host chooses to remember the late chef and her good friend not for who she was when she was ill but for the "really special young woman" she always was. “It’s the first chef that’s been on the show that’s passed away for any reason," Padma told Variety when asked about the impact of Fatima's passing on the entire Top Chef community on the red carpet of the American Heart Association's 15th annual Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection event on February 7. "Fatima was a really special young woman. I got very close with her. I usually don’t fraternize with [the Cheftestants] during the competition, but after, I did keep in touch with a lot of them, and it’s really sad. She didn’t even see her 30th birthday. We’re all feeling her absence. She was just one of our brightest stars, so I just feel for her family now.”

Fatima's family expressed a similar sentiment about their late loved one while honoring her life and legacy on Instagram following her passing. "When someone as bright and young and vivacious as our Fati passes, the only metaphor that seems to fit is that of a star—a beacon in the darkness, a light that guides us, on which to make wishes, from which to weave dreams," the tribute read. "Though she’s no longer here with us, her spirit will continue to steer us. We hope that you, too, will listen to her lessons: Live your life as she did—to the fullest. Pursue your passion; spread love and joy; be kind and forgiving; be generous; enjoy every morsel—from humble street food to decadent fine dining; cook for the people you love. Travel the world and seek out adventure. Help others and don’t be afraid to take the road less taken. Fatima will always be a part of us, and in fact if you look deep enough, you may find your own inner Fati. If you’re lucky enough to find her there, trust her, listen to her, because she will change your life for the better."

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Fatima was at home with us, surrounded by her loved ones and beloved cat Mr. Meow, when she left us in the early hours of the morning. When someone as bright and young and vivacious as our Fati passes, the only metaphor that seems to fit is that of a star—a beacon in the darkness, a light that guides us, on which to make wishes, from which to weave dreams. For all the comfort and beauty they offer us, stars, too, are impermanent. This morning a great one was snuffed out. Though she’s no longer here with us, her spirit will continue to steer us. We hope that you, too, will listen to her lessons: Live your life as she did—to the fullest. Pursue your passion; spread love and joy; be kind and forgiving; be generous; enjoy every morsel—from humble street food to decadent fine dining; cook for the people you love. Travel the world and seek out adventure. Help others and don’t be afraid to take the road less taken. Fatima will always be a part of us, and in fact if you look deep enough, you may find your own inner Fati. If you’re lucky enough to find her there, trust her, listen to her, because she will change your life for the better. We’ve learned a great deal over the course of her illness, not only pragmatic lessons we wish we hadn’t needed to learn about her disease and our health system, but about the immense love of which people are capable; about the power of being true to yourself; about how we can be better if we model ourselves after someone like her. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our now broken hearts. We’re eternally grateful for the unending support, love, and generosity shown by people along the way—from random strangers we passed on the street who would tell her how much they admire and respect her; to all her doctors and nurses who did their best; the chefs and hospitality friends who are now part of our extended family; and the big wigs that reached out to see how they can make her dreams a reality. This has been a truly humbling experience for us all and even in her last chapter as she began to leave us, Fatima showed us how we should live.

A post shared by Fatima Ali (@cheffati) on

Fatima's fellow Top Chef Season 15 contestant Chris Scott told The Daily Dish prior to her passing that he and all of her loved ones were committed to keeping her memory alive. "Fati and her place on this earth will always remain. I mean, talking to her brother, we’re gonna try to do something in the future, you know, food-related where Fati and her mission [are] the focal point," he shared. "But all of us will always be involved, and we’ll keep her alive."

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