Spoilers ahead for the premiere of Masterchef: Legends on Fox.
The MasterChef franchise has showcased some of the biggest names in food TV, and several of them were on hand and ready to eat in the June 2 premiere of MasterChef: Legends, with culinary legend Emeril Lagasse joining host/judge Gordon Ramsay and fellow judges Aarón Sanchez and Joe Bastianich to kick things off. The premiere didn't end by just wrapping on the first batch of competitors, however, but with a tribute to MasterChef Junior competitor Ben Watkins, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 14.
Ben Watkins was a competitor in Season 6 of MasterChef Junior, and he died back in November 2020 after an 18-month battle with a rare kind of soft-tissue cancer. He was one of only six people in the world with this particular kind of illness. His loss at such a young age was a major tragedy for a franchise that is usually all about culinary skills, and MasterChef: Legends (a.k.a. Season 11 of MasterChef) chose this way to honor Watkins:
Ben Watkins competed in the sixth season of MasterChef Junior, when he was only 10-years-old. He didn't win Season 6, but he clearly left an impression on the judges and his former competitors, as proven by a sweet video featuring the young chefs, Gordon Ramsay, and more in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Watkins in August 2020, a few months prior to his death. Also, in the wake of his passing in November last year, Ramsay took to Twitter with a message in honor of Watkins:
We lost a Master of the MasterChef Junior kitchen today. Ben you were an incredibly talented home cook and even stronger young man. Your young life had so many tough turns but you always persevered. Sending all the love to Ben Watkins’ family with this terrible loss
While the tribute to Ben Watkins at the end of the MasterChef: Legends premiere was a somber reminder of what happened to him at the end of what was a pretty intense hour of culinary competition, it was a nice way to honor the person who died far too young. Personally, I was touched by MasterChef bringing back the #love4ben hashtag that was used across the internet in the days and weeks following his death last year.
If you want to experience Ben Watkins' season of MasterChef Junior all over again, or check it out for the first time, you can find the full sixth season streaming on Hulu now. Episodes of MasterChef: Legends will continue airing on Fox Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET, taking the slot previously held by The Masked Singer prior to its finale and the beginning of the 2021 summer TV premiere schedule.