Bravo's Top Chef Season 15 contestants had a "bittersweet reunion" to see Fatima Ali in Los Angeles earlier this month in what would turn out to be their final visit with the Fan Favorite winner. Fatima passed away about a week and a half later on January 25 after a battle with Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone and soft tissue cancer.
Chris Scott, who competed with Fatima in Season 15 of Top Chef, spoke to The Daily Dish about how that reunion came to be on January 24, one day before Fatima passed away. "Bruce [Kalman] sent us a text, and he said, 'I think that we should really go out and see Fati.' We kind of got the hint that this probably could be the last time that we see her as a group. All of us jumped on a plane, we stopped everything, and we flew out there," Chris shared. "We saw her in her room, and that was a whole range of emotion for all of us, just being there with her one last time and just sharing words and sharing love and laughing, loving, crying, and getting to know her family a bit more."
Chris said that all of the Top Chef Season 15 cheftestants were there in that room with Fatima, with the exception of Brother Luck, who joined them later, which is a testament to the bond this group formed during and after the competition. "Whoever was in charge of getting these 15 people together should win, like, a Nobel Peace Prize because, you know, our closeness, I can’t even describe it to you," he said. "I mean, we are connected. It’s cosmic."
It's the joyful memories of getting to know Fatima as they competed on Top Chef that Chris will always remember. "She taught us how to play cricket, you know, and just always laughing and joking and loving," he recalled. "There was one time when we were talking about religion and all that on the show, just how we really go deep into each other’s souls, spirit."
As loved ones prepared to say goodbye to Fatima after she revealed that her cancer was terminal last fall, Chris said that he needed to remember what he taught his 4-year-old about death. "I said, 'Well, you know, when you die, it doesn’t mean that you’re gone because the love that you shared for someone now will always be there. Like my mother passed away 17 years ago, but the fact that I talk about her all the time, there are things that in my daily life that remind me of her, lessons learned by her in my heart. She still exists, and forever more… forever more,'" Chris shared. "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. But all of us will always be involved, and we’ll keep her alive."
Chris and many others in the Top Chef family have paid tribute to Fatima in the days following her passing. Many of the Season 15 contestants, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Nilou Motamed, Andy Cohen, and Ellen DeGeneres have all shared how Fatima has touched their lives.
If you would like to donate to the Sarcoma Foundation of America, visit curesarcoma.org.
— Reporting by Alesandra Dubin