After losing both his parents just three years ago, “MasterChef Junior” star Ben Watkins is facing yet another personal trial and tribulation.
The 13-year-old cook, who appeared on the sixth season of the hit FOX culinary competition, was recently diagnosed with a rare illness, according to a GoFundMe started by his grandmother and uncle.
Watkins is being treated for Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, a soft tissue tumor that typically occurs in children and young adults. Watkins’ loved ones say he is one of six people in the world to receive such a rare diagnosis. He is currently undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
On Thursday, Watkins uncle, Trent McCain, provided an update for fans and followers: Watkins started chemotherapy.
In September 2017, the aspiring chef lost both of his parents, Leila Edwards and Mike Watkins, in a murder-suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Before his parents’ passing, Watkins helped out at his family’s restaurant, which was even named after him — Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue, Bakery & Deli. Though the restaurant closed the month his parents died, the aspiring chef still stayed passionate about food.
That year, the Miller Beach community (a neighborhood in Gary, Indiana where Watkins lived) rallied around him, raising more than $30,000 through fundraisers.
“Despite all of Ben’s trials and tribulations, he remains positive and looks forward to getting back in the kitchen and pursuing his dream to become an engineer. ” the #Love4Ben GoFundMe stated at the time. “Members of the community have joined together to see that the life challenges that Ben has gone through (do) not derail him from reaching his full potential and fulfilling his dreams.”
Watkins was one of 40 contestants, aged 8 to 13, on his season who vied to become the “MasterChef Junior” champion and win the grand prize of $100,000. Just 11-years-old at the time, he placed in the top 18.