Top Chef star Fatima Ali passed away at the age of 29 after an ongoing battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma and was open about her struggles with the terminal illness and the impact it had on her family.
Once the news of her passing was announced, a representative for Bravo told People “We are deeply saddened to share the news that Fatima Ali has lost her courageous battle with cancer. 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.”
Here’s what you need to know about Fatima Ali’s family:
1. Her Parents Are From Pakistan
Ali was born and raised in Pakistan but moved to the United States in order to go to culinary school and pursue a career as a chef. On the show, Ali’s home country and culture were often featured and paid honor to in her dishes.
In an open letter to her younger self, which CBS News shared from Bon Apetít magazine, she wrote about her decision to leave home and where it led her. She also reflected on the significance of her mother in her life, writing:
Reach out to mom more. That’s one thing I urge you to do. I know you are far away from her in a new country with the freedom she never had at your age. Respect her wisdom and use it to advise you. Her love for you is something I cannot begin to describe in words. Turn to her when your chains are too heavy to carry by yourself. She will heft the weight like cotton wool. She is your guardian angel.
2. Her Mom, Farezah, Took Care of Her Throughout Her Illness
In November 2018, Fatima went on Ellen to talk to her about her diagnosis and the bucket list she made herself to take advantage of the time she had left. In the intro video played before their interview, there is a clip of Ali and her mother cooking in the kitchen. In the video, Farezah says “You know, going through Fatima’s illness for the last like 14 months, there have been times when Fatima has had to go through therapy for days on end and all we did was watch ‘Ellen’ every day. And the shows have played such a huge role of comfort for us.”
According to AM New York, Farezah was Fatima’s full-time caretaker in their shared apartment, and she cooked her daughter Pakistani food whenever she craved it. Ali told them that her she was “grateful for that support and her older brother’s, who has stood by her during such fateful moments as when she shaved the rest of her remaining hair.”
3. Farezah Gave a Voice Over About Fatima in the ‘Her Name Is Chef’ Documentary
When Fatima shared the news with her followers that she was a part of a new documentary called “Her Name Is Chef,” she shared a clip of the documentary in which her mother is featured. As the video shows pictures of Fatima as a child, her mother discusses her daughter through voice over. She says “To watch Fatima grow into this extremely skilled and crafty chef, who comes up with the most innovative recipes, who has taken her inspiration and influences from her cultural heritage and background and what she grew up with, taken all the fabulous things she has learned in college working with all these wonderful chefs, taken French techniques… and has come up with a whole new world of Pakistani food. And that is what makes me so proud as a mom.”
The description of the six-part documentary series, hosted by Leia Gaccione, says that it “spotlights six bad-ass, inspiring, sheroes of the kitchen” and the “striking similarities in each of their stories.”
4. Fatima & Her Family Saw ‘Hamilton’ Together in October
In October, after she announced that her cancer had returned and she was told she only had a year to live, Fatima shared on Instagram that she and her family were able to go see Broadway’s hit musical Hamilton together with the help of her friend Jonah Platt.
The night of the show, she revealed that the man she and her family were sitting next to (named Eddy) worked at the theater and invited them backstage after the show to meet the cast. She shared a photo of her signed playbill and reflected on the experience, writing “I don’t have words to express how grateful I am that these doors keep opening in the most unexpected ways. What a brilliant production- we left in awe of what humans are capable of. Talent and kindness all in one night.”
5. Fatima Was Visited By Her ‘TV Family’ in the Hospital Before Her Passing
After Ali shared a post on Instagram explaining that she was getting sicker and asking for prayers, NBC reported that many of her Top Chef co-stars visited her in the hospital.
Following her passing, many of them mourned the loss on social media, paying tribute to her legacy as a chef and of their memories spent together both filming the competition show and as friends beyond it.