‘MasterChef Junior’ Star Ben Watkins ‘Never Complained, Not Once’ During His Fatal Cancer Experience

There is a wealth of cooking competition TV shows that have aired on television in recent years, from the lighthearted Guy’s Grocery Games to the more intense Chopped.

One of the most fun and entertaining shows available to fans is MasterChef Junior, a show that pits talented young chefs against each other in a battle for kitchen supremacy. Out of all the young competitors who have appeared on the series, Ben Watkins is one of the shining stars.

A force of nature who charmed all the judges when he competed on MasterChef Junior, Watkins had a tragic past — and with the recent news of his untimely passing, fans are learning even more about his strength and resilience. 

Ben Watkins competed on ‘MasterChef Junior’ in 2018

Contestant Ben in the all-new Junior Edition: American Classics episode of MASTERCHEF
Contestant Ben in the all-new Junior Edition: American Classics episode of MASTERCHEF | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

MasterChef Junior debuted on the Fox network in 2013. The format is similar to that of many other cooking competition shows, with young contestants ranging in age from eight to thirteen racing the clock to complete various challenges.

At the end of each round, contestants must have their creations judged by celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi. Over the years, many contestants have made an impression on the show – but none made a more indelible mark than Ben Watkins.

Ben Watkins was only eleven years old when he competed on MasterChef Junior in 2018, and although he didn’t win, viewers and judges alike were impressed by his boundless enthusiasm and overwhelming positivity. Determined to make a difference, Watkins became a particular favorite of judge Gordon Ramsay.

Ben Watkins had a tragic past

RELATED: What Happened To The Parents of ‘Masterchef Junior’ Star, Ben Watkins?

By the time that Ben Watkins appeared on MasterChef Junior in season six, he had already gone through one of the most difficult situations that any child could be forced to deal with. Just one year prior to appearing on the show, Watkins had lost both of his parents, when his father, Michael Watkins, reportedly killed his wife before turning the gun on himself.

Rather than lose himself in tragedy, Watkins submerged himself into working to make a better future for himself, working in his family’s restaurant and perfecting his cooking abilities.

After competing on MasterChef Junior in 2018, Watkins returned to working in his family restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli. Sadly, Watkins’ would never live out his dream of becoming a renowned chef.

A cancer diagnosis when the young man was only 13 would irrevocably alter his life — and the lives of those closest to him.

What type of cancer did Ben Watkins have?

In 2019, Ben Watkins was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma. According to researchers at BMC, the cancer is particularly rare, and “occurs in subcutaneous regions of the extremities or the trunk, usually presenting in children or young adults.”

Although Watkins’ prognosis was grim, he determined to fight the disease. He battled it out for close to eighteen months before tragically passing away in November 2020 from complications relating to cancer. 

Watkins’ uncle and legal guardian, Anthony Edwards, opened up to the Chicago Tribune in the days that followed the young boy’s passing, saying that “despite all the pain and sickness Ben went through, he never complained, not once. We were praying for a different outcome. But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating.”

Edwards remained at Watkins’ side throughout his cancer treatment, with other friends and family supporting the young chef. Even Gordon Ramsay, Watkins’ former judge on MasterChef Junior, kicked in to show his support, reportedly donating $50,000 to his cancer treatment in August 2020. 

Sadly, nothing could save Ben Watkins from the devastating disease. In the end, his positive attitude and cheerful nature will live on, inspiring generations of young chefs.