'Top Chef' Fatima Ali's words about the last months of her life revealed only after her death
Fatima Ali left us with her story. She was full of passion, rebellion, and most of all, positivity.
The former contestant of "Top Chef" found out she had cancer in 2017. She lost her battle on January 25, 2019, at the age of 29.
Ali shared her heart-wrenching story with Bon Appetit magazine three months ago. The essay began with the first time Ali knew she loved cooking.
It was at the age of six or seven that her grandmother taught her to make bread bears. By 2011, Ali graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.
Her mother asked her to come home, but Ali thought she could best learn her craft in New York City.
"Watching me evolve gave my mom comfort, and helped her understand that this was absolutely my calling. So she finally let go, and said, “Look, just promise me that you'll do your absolute best."
So Ali did just that. At the age of 21, she was a junior sous chef who became responsible for an entire restaurant when her executive chef quit.
One day, the other cooks called out sick and several trays dropped from a transportation van. Ali had to step in and start the food from scratch with very little help.
Still, she insisted:
"But you know what? It was amazing. Managing to get through a day like that—and not only living to tell about it but doing it again and again—I think it really makes you understand what a human is capable of."
She said she wouldn't change anything. By 2017 she was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She had just finished season 15 of "Top Chef" where she placed seventh. Viewers voted her as the fan favorite.
It only truly hit Ali what was going on when she did chemo and experienced hair loss. Then, she thought it was gone. She dyed her hair blonde.
She said: "My scans were all clear. I thought I'd beaten it," but it returned. Sadly, this time it reached her lungs and was terminal.
She was given one year to live. She saw people from all walks of life as she went through hospitals in New York and LA. This, she said, gave her "perspective."
She decided to use "cancer as the excuse [she] needed to actually go and get things done." She wrote down her intentions and stuck to them. People were counting on her.
"What is my intention? To live my life. To fulfill all those genuine dreams I have."
Some of those included writing down her recipes which she shared with her brother. She also decided to eat at a variety of restaurants including "Vespertine, Sushi Masa, Broken Spanish, Kismet, and Eleven Madison Park."
She was set on visiting Europe and experiencing the food there as well. It was meant to come to an end soon. Ali's brother pointed out that that was something she was familiar with.
" 'As chefs, you guys deal with death every day.' And he’s right. When you’re a chef, you understand the circle of life."
Ali insisted her coming death was "not an unfamiliar feeling." It wasn't easy, but she had her family to cry with her when she needed. In her acceptance of it, she wanted to be happy and not let fear take over.
She concluded in her essay:
"But at the same time, you can't let that fear cripple you. It's harder being miserable than it is to be happy."
Ali's sister, Padma Lakshmi, also reflected hope as she paid tribute to her sister on Twitter. Her family used Ali's account to further share a lengthy tribute to their loved one.
Lakshmi wrote alongside a video collage of herself and her sister:
"Goodbye lil’ sis. One of our brightest stars has fallen from the sky.... I have no words, but here are some of hers: 'I dream of being better. I dream of being myself again, but I know I’ll never quite be the same, and that’s okay. I look forward to meeting that woman one day.' "
TV host Ellen DeGeneres also paid tribute when she heard of Ali's passing. The young chef had once appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to share her story.
DeGeneres shared a tweet sending Ali's family lots of love, and hoping they could "find comfort in knowing how much light she brought to the world."