A teenage chef who won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” has died aged 17. Fuller Goldsmith passed away on Tuesday after a long battle with leukemia. Saturday would be his 18th birthday, reports WIAT, a CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama.
Goldsmith appeared on “Chopped Junior”, a children’s cooking competition, in 2017 when he was 14 and won its episode. He also appeared on the first season of the similar NBC Universal show, “Top Chef Junior” that same year.
He was first diagnosed with leukemia when he was three, but was in remission for four years. The cancer returned this year and it took a turn for the worse this week, his father Scott Goldsmith told WIAT. “He got tired and was ready to go,” his father said.
Since he was 4 years old, Goldsmith knew he wanted to be a chef. After winning “Chopped Junior,” he worked at Southern Ale House restaurant in Tuscaloosa, WIAT reports. His fellow restaurant workers are now mourning his death.
“If he had the chance to go into a kitchen or work in a kitchen, that was something he really loved,” his father said. “He has met a lot of people and gets the chance to do things that most can’t do.”
The teen was in and out of hospitals for years — and it was cooking that got him out of bed.
“When I was sick, the only thing that brightened me up was cooking,” Goldsmith told Tuscaloosa Magazine in 2017. “I wouldn’t hurt that much.”
On “Chopped Junior,” Goldsmith highlighted regionally inspired dishes, featuring Southern favorites like powdered sugar fritters, chicken tenders made with hush puppy batter, and beer battered catfish, WIAT reports.
Goldsmith attended Tuscaloosa Academy, a prep school in the city of Alabama. Alan Barr, the interim principal of the school, said Goldsmith never let his illness paralyze him and that he was in love with life. “He was just one of those people when they walked into a room. He was a little brighter because he was in it,” Barr said.
Magical Elves, which produces the “Top Chef” franchise, said they were shocked by Goldsmith’s death. “He was an incredible chef and the strongest kid we’ve ever met,” the company said in an Instagram post. “From the moment he was introduced to us, we knew he would have an impact on everyone around him and be a positive force in the cooking world. We give all our love to his family as they mourn the loss of a loved one. someone very special.”