Top Chef’s Joe Flamm: Fatima Ali Planned to Open a Restaurant and ‘Tell Her Story’ Before Her Death

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Fatima Ali and Joe Flamm Tommy Garcia/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Fatima Ali had big plans prior to her death. The beloved Top Chef contestant, 29, who died on January 25 after battling cancer, wished to open a restaurant and “tell her story” with food.

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Joe Flamm, who competed alongside Ali on season 15 of the Bravo show and won, shared his pal’s intentions at the Between Bites chef storytelling series in Chicago last month. “To be a chef, to be able to tell your story. We’re like historians who are sh–ty at school and want to tell our story with food,” Flamm told the audience, according to Bravo. “And I think that’s a big part of it — and one of the most beautiful parts of what we get to do.”

For the reality show victor, that has meant sharing things with others using recipes that came with his family from Italy. For Ali, whose family was from Pakistan, the mission was similar.

“That’s what you got. That’s who we are. And we get to use that to tell our stories. And she wanted to tell her story,” the chef added. “And it was such a unique story. It wasn’t a story that had been told yet here. It was different.”

During the discussion Flamm described Ali, who placed seventh on Top Chef, as a “beautiful, incredible, energetic, intelligent, hard-working woman from Pakistan who was going to blow it the f–k up.” It’s no surprise then, that despite her declining health, he was the one who pitched the idea of opening her restaurant.

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“I said, ‘I want to open your restaurant. One night only. In f–king New York. I’ll get the equipment. I’ll get the plates. We’ll pick them out. Your name on the marquee. Let’s do it. Let’s tell your story for one night only, we gotta do this, we’ll set it up,’” he recalled.

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Fatima Ali, Andy Cohen, and Joe Flamm Rob Kim/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Not only was Ali “super into” the idea, but Flamm had also gotten fellow Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard on board. As he put it, “a ton of people were into it.”

However, the restaurant plans came to a halt on January 7 when Flamm got a sobering text from the Chopped alum. “She said, ‘Hey. I don’t want to bug you right now, but if you’re going to visit, you should come visit,’” he recalled. Ali died a few weeks later.

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In addition to being remembered by Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and other members of the Top Chef family, the talented cook was also honored by her family in a touching Instagram post. “Fatima was at home with us, surrounded by her loved ones and beloved cat Mr. Meow, when she left us in the early hours of the morning,” the post 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.”

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