In the weeks following Fatima Ali's passing at the age of 29 on January 25, the Bravo's Top Chef Season 15 Fan Favorite winner has received touching tributes from just about every member of the Top Chef family and beyond.
Padma Lakshmi had especially been by Fatima's side throughout her battle with Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone and soft tissue cancer. But the Top Chef host chooses to remember the late chef and her good friend not for who she was when she was ill but for the "really special young woman" she always was. “It’s the first chef that’s been on the show that’s passed away for any reason," Padma told Variety when asked about the impact of Fatima's passing on the entire Top Chef community on the red carpet of the American Heart Association's 15th annual Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection event on February 7. "Fatima was a really special young woman. I got very close with her. I usually don’t fraternize with [the Cheftestants] during the competition, but after, I did keep in touch with a lot of them, and it’s really sad. She didn’t even see her 30th birthday. We’re all feeling her absence. She was just one of our brightest stars, so I just feel for her family now.”
Fatima's family expressed a similar sentiment about their late loved one while honoring her life and legacy on Instagram following her passing. "When someone as bright and young and vivacious as our Fati passes, the only metaphor that seems to fit is that of a star—a beacon in the darkness, a light that guides us, on which to make wishes, from which to weave dreams," the tribute read. "Though she’s no longer here with us, her spirit will continue to steer us. We hope that you, too, will listen to her lessons: Live your life as she did—to the fullest. Pursue your passion; spread love and joy; be kind and forgiving; be generous; enjoy every morsel—from humble street food to decadent fine dining; cook for the people you love. Travel the world and seek out adventure. Help others and don’t be afraid to take the road less taken. Fatima will always be a part of us, and in fact if you look deep enough, you may find your own inner Fati. If you’re lucky enough to find her there, trust her, listen to her, because she will change your life for the better."
Fatima's fellow Top Chef Season 15 contestant Chris Scott told The Daily Dish prior to her passing that he and all of her loved ones were committed to keeping her memory alive. "Fati and her place on this earth will always remain. I mean, talking to her brother, we’re gonna try to do something in the future, you know, food-related where Fati and her mission [are] the focal point," he shared. "But all of us will always be involved, and we’ll keep her alive."