Top Chef's Fatima Ali Dies at Age 29 After Battling Rare Form of Bone Cancer
Fatima Ali has died at age 29.
The Top Chef star’s family confirmed to Pakistani newspaper Dawn that Ali lost her battle with cancer on Friday. Bravo confirmed her passing in a statement to PEOPLE.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news that Fatima Ali has lost her courageous battle with cancer,” shared a representative for the network. “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time. People not only fell in love with her cooking, but fell in love with her personality and heart. We hope that the beautiful memories shared with her will provide comfort to everyone who knew and loved her.”
The chef was first diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2017. She had undergone surgery to remove a tumor in her shoulder bone and had told PEOPLE she was “technically cancer-free” at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last July. But in October, through an emotional essay for Bon Appetit, Ali revealed that her cancer was back “with a vengeance.”
She wrote that “the cancer cells my doctors believed had vanished are back with a vengeance in my left hip and femur bone.” She added that her oncologist told her she likely had “a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen.”
Bruce Kalman, Ali’s fellow contestant on the 15th season of Top Chef, also confirmed the news of her death with an Instagram post on Friday.
“It’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to Fatima Ali today, as she has lost her battle with cancer. I will miss you Fati, and you will be in my heart forever,” he wrote on a photo visiting her in the hospital. “I’ll always remember the great times we had, especially our interview during the tailgating episode discussing football, stadiums, and Taylor Swift. Much love, Bruce.”
Padma Lakshmi posted on Twitter that she would be canceling a Facebook Live appearance she had scheduled today “due to personal reasons.”
Two weeks ago, Ali gave an update on her failing health, asking her fans for their prayers.
“I know it’s been ages since I posted and most may have figured out why,” she wrote on selfie of herself. “I’m sick and unfortunately I’m getting sicker.”
“Right now all I need are prayers; prayers that are simple,” she continued. “I hope, because a wish is putting on too much responsibility on the other, that you will somehow find forgiveness in your big heart for whenever I must have hurt you. I thank you a million times over for when you have given me joy.”
Last week, many of Ali’s Top Chef friends gathered in Los Angeles to show support during what were some of her final days.
After posing together in a group photo—which included Adrienne Cheatham, Tyler Anderson, Bruce Kalman, Tanya Holland, Claudette Wilkins, Carrie Baird, Rogelio Garcia, Chris Scott, Tu David Phu, Joe Sasto, and Melissa Perfit—many of the former contestants shared the image on Instagram and wrote messages of support to Ali.
“I wish they were under better circumstances that we were together but when one hurts we all hurt and we rally. @cheffati is loved beyond belief and we will be here for her and each other,” Wilkins wrote.
To help her fulfill her dream of traveling the world in search of fine food, a GoFundMe campaign was started by #TeamFati. It raised over $95,000 and any remaining funds after her death were to be given to the Sarcoma Foundation of America, according to the site’s description.
At age 18, the chef—who was awarded “fan-favorite” during her season of Top Chef—left her home in Pakistan to study at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She continued her career working at restaurants including Cafe Centro, Macy’s Stella 34 and La Fonda Del Sol.
She hoped to open her own restaurant one day, telling PEOPLE in July, “I love the thought of being able to open up a restaurant that opens up people’s eyes to what Pakistani food could be in America.”