11-year-old competing on ‘MasterChef Junior’ after losing both parents


Ben Watkins lost both of his parents last September when his father, Michael Watkins, shot and killed his mother, Leila Edwards, and then took his own life.

But before that tragedy, Ben had been on track to be a chef, working with his dad in their restaurant, Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbeque & Deli, which had been named after him. On a Facebook page for the restaurant, the business described itself as being created “by a family to support their son’s love of cooking.”

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But while the restaurant shut down after Ben’s parents died, Ben’s family and community wanted to keep his dream alive.

On a GoFundMe page, Ben’s neighbor and attorney, Trent A. McCain, asked for funds “to see that this tragedy does not derail Ben from reaching his full potential and fulfilling his dreams.”

“We want Ben to able to continue his education in the culinary arts wherever he wants to in the world,” McCain wrote.

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They raised over $21,000 to help support Ben in chasing his dreams. Those funds will go toward his education as well as his health and welfare, according to the New York Daily News.

MasterChef Junior

Ben is now pursuing that dream even further with an appearance on Friday on Gordon Ramsey’s MasterChef Junior.

“We are so thrilled to have Ben on this season of MasterChef Junior, and although there have been some trials in his young life, he is really focused on his culinary dreams and time on the show,” Fox spokeswoman Allie Hall told The Times of Northwest Indiana.

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The new season will feature Ben and 39 other young chefs all competing with each other to improve their skills and win $100,000.

MasterChef Junior will kick off with a special two-hour premiere on FOX at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

We wish Ben the best of luck chasing his dream and can’t wait to see how far he goes.