Padma Lakshmi is one delighted friend. On Sunday, April 28, the Top Chef host took to her Instagram Stories to share that “couldn’t be more proud” of late pal Fatima Ali’s posthumous James Beard Award win.
Ali’s family announced the reality show contestant, who passed away at 29 in January after battling cancer, won one of the prestigious awards in a moving post of their own on the chef’s Instagram account. “Some special news to share with everyone. Fati won a James Beard Award,” the four-part post, which featured pictures of the medal, began. “She belonged in that room last night where she would have sat alongside chefs like Samin Nosrat, David Chang, Marcus Samuelsson and so many other passionate and talented people.”
The heartfelt post continued: “Fatima was always meant to win a James Beard Award. She was always meant to inspire and positively influence so many people around the world.” Ali’s family also noted that she had always intended to use food as a “means to bring joy to people.”
Indeed, in light of her passing earlier this year, Top Chef winner Joe Flamm, who competed alongside Ali on the Bravo show, revealed she was planning on opening a restaurant, at his urging, prior to her death. “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,” he recalled in February. “Let’s do it. Let’s tell your story for one night only, we gotta do this, we’ll set it up.’”
Ali died before her dreams of opening a restaurant came true, but, as her family stated via Instagram, she was still honored alongside food greats such as Jonathan Gold and Anthony Bourdain at the James Beard Award ceremony. “I couldn’t help thinking that they are probably all up there together, at the most delicious noodle soup spot, slurping away, watching over us as we remember them,” the post continued.
In the caption for the poignant post, Ali’s family thanked Bon Appétit for giving her a platform to write about her cancer diagnoses, and singled out the James Beard Foundation for “recognizing her talent & positive impact on all of us.”
And even though Ali’s Instagram account has been inactive since her passing, her loved ones have vowed to use it as a means to “occasionally share important news about initiatives that we’re working towards to honor Fati” going forward.
“We hope everyone understands our intentions & continues to support us as we keep her memory alive and strong,” the caption concluded. “Big love to all and especially to our Fatima. Congratulations.”
In addition to Lakshmi’s congratulations, which she also posted via a comment on the Instagram post, others expressed their happiness over Ali’s win as well. “Witnessing my friend’s win was amazing,” wrote Tanya Holland, who was also on Top Chef season 15 with Ali. Added fellow contestant Chris Scott: “Her message and energy in this world touched us all. You are missed my friend. Congratulations to you and your family on this win!”