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Fatima Ali (1989 – 2019), star of Bravo's “Top Chef”

Getty Images / NBC / Bravo / Tommy Garcia

First Pakistani woman to win on “Chopped”

Fatima Ali was a star of Bravo's “Top Chef,” voted fan favorite in the 2017 season. Before her “Top Chef” fame, Ali had the distinction of becoming the first Pakistani woman to win on “Chopped,” in 2012. A native of Lahore, Pakistan, Ali moved to the U.S. at 18 to attend culinary school. She excelled as a chef in New York restaurants as well as on television.

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Died: January 25 (Who else died on January 25?)

Details of death: Died at home in San Marino, California of Ewing's sarcoma at the age of 29.


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A dream of culinary adventures: Ali was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and after she beat it once, it returned in 2018. When she was told that the cancer had spread to her lungs and she had a year to live, Ali became determined to spend that year joyfully exploring the world's cuisines. She wrote a recipe a day with her brother, ate at restaurants all over New York, and made plans to travel, dreaming of culinary journeys to Italy and Austria. Ali appeared on a November episode of “Ellen,” where host Ellen DeGeneres presented her with a check for $50,000 to help make her travel dreams come true.

Notable quote: “I decided not to spend whatever time I had left (whether it's a year, a month, another ten years – you don't know until you're gone) lamenting all the things that weren't right. Instead, I'd make the most of it. I'm using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them.” —Ali in an essay for Bon Appetit magazine, scheduled for the March issue but published online upon her death

What people said about her: “I had so many laughs with this beautiful young brown woman! Despite her youth, there was an innate knowing, a maturity, worldliness and sophistication that I deeply appreciated. She was compassionate and empathetic. These qualities made her ambition and drive so authentic.” —Tanya Holland, fellow “Top Chef” contestant

“My heart is so broken today, thanks for gracing my life, meeting my son, being my friend, and letting me into your incredible existence. I'll miss you more than you can know. Until I see you again. I'll keep a bottle of whiskey and a coffee cup ready for you.” —“Top Chef” winner Joseph Flamm

Full obituary: New York Times

Related lives:

Anthony Bourdain (1956 - 2018), celebrity chef and food writer

Julia Child (1912 - 2004), iconic television chef

Paul Prudhomme (1940 - 2015), New Orleans celebrity chef

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