Padma Lakshmi has remained close with Fatima Ali’s family. The Top Chef host befriended the reality contestant’s clan as Ali, who was a competitor on season 15 of the Bravo show, battled cancer. She died in January at 29.
“Her family’s doing as you would expect. We all miss her,” Lakshmi told Us Weekly exclusively at the Matrix Awards presented by New York Women in Communications on Monday, May 6. “We all think that this is a huge loss.”
The Bravo personality recently took to Instagram to share how delighted she was for Ali, who posthumously won a prestigious James Beard Award last month. “I’m very proud of her,” Lakshmi explained. “I knew she was talented and I’m just sorry she couldn’t sit at that table with those people that she so admired.”
Added the Easy Exotic author: “She definitely deserved a place at that table.”
At the time of Ali’s win, Lakshmi said she “couldn’t be more proud” of her late friend.
Since Ali left such a lasting mark on those who knew her, especially in the culinary world, Lakshmi is adamant that she doesn’t need to do anything to keep her friend’s memory alive. “It’s very alive,” she told Us. “I think about her all the time.”
Noting that Ali “became like a little sister to me,” Lakshmi added that she saw her “younger self” in the talented chef.
The TV host was often by Ali’s side as was treated for cancer. “Padma has taken out much time for me and my family. Coming to sit with me during chemo, popping in with homemade khichdi or sending over delicious chicken and homemade samosas,” Ali told Us about three months prior to her death. “While battling cancer, I have had energy for little else sometimes, and knowing that I have such a strong support system around me brings me great peace.”
When Ali passed away, Lakshmi was understandably gutted by the loss. “One of our brightest stars has fallen from the sky … I have no words,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.
With reporting by Lexi Ciccone