A teen chef who won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” has died at the age of 17. Fuller Goldsmith died on Tuesday after a long battle with leukemia. Saturday would be his 18th birthday, WIAT, a CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, reports.
Goldsmith appeared on “Chopped Junior,” a kid’s cooking competition, in 2017 when he was 14 and went on to win his 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 he took a turn for the worst this week, his dad Scott Goldsmith told WIAT. “He got tired and was ready to go,” his dad 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 employees are now grieving his death.
“If he had the opportunity to go in a kitchen or work in a kitchen, that was something he truly loved,” his dad said. “He met a bunch of people and get an opportunity to do things most don’t get to 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, cooking was the only thing that got me up,” Goldsmith told Tuscaloosa Magazine in 2017. “If I was just laying down doing nothing, my feet and legs would hurt, but when I was moving around in the kitchen, I wouldn’t be hurting as much.”
On “Chopped Junior,” Goldsmith highlighted regionally inspired cuisine, with Southern favorites like powdered sugar beignets, chicken tenders made with hush puppy batter and beer-battered catfish, WIAT reports.
Goldsmith attended Tuscaloosa Academy, a prep school in the Alabama city. Alan Barr, interim head of the school, said Goldsmith never let his disease get him down and that he was in love with life. “He was just one of those people when they stepped in a room, he was a little brighter because he was in it,” Barr said.
Magical Elves, which produces the “Top Chef” franchise, said they are devastated 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 minute he was introduced to us, we knew he would make an impact on everyone around him and be a positive force in cooking world. To his family, we give all our love as they mourn the loss of someone truly special.”