Chef Fatima Ali laid to rest

February 02, 2019

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LAHORE: Family and friends of Fatima Ali, the renowned Pakistani-American chef, laid her to rest in the Bagh-i-Rehmat graveyard, Bedian Road, here on Friday.

Fatima was a contestant in the American cooking competition, Top Chef, and though she did not win, she had emerged as a ‘fan favourite’. She was the daughter of Ashtar Ausaf Ali, a former attorney general, and Farazeh Durrani, a prominent educationalist.

Several members of the judiciary, including former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, incumbent CJP Asif Saeed Khosa, judges of the high court and Supreme Court, eminent political personalities, including Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Zaeem Qadri and Parvez Malik, attended her funeral prayers.

In various interviews, Fatima had disclosed that she was interested in exploring indigenous and local Pakistani ingredients, produce and techniques. She had hoped to one day open up kitchens in Pakistan with the aim to reduce food insecurity and hunger in the country by providing affordable meals for anyone who could pay, and free for the less fortunate.

The young chef had felt a strong desire to change the global perception of Pakistan by introducing the country’s culture to the world through food. She was working on her own restaurant in the US. As a chef, she began learning the art at the age of six. She was popularly known to showcase diverse elements of Pakistani cuisine in her food. In Top Chef, she often used to infuse striking flavours and spices of her homeland.

However, before her plans could materialise, she was diagnosed in 2017 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, usually seen in children. Although she underwent surgery to remove a tumour in her shoulder bone after which she announced that she was “technically cancer-free”. But in an emotional social media post in October, she announced that her cancer was “back with a vengeance”.

In an essay published on the Bon Appetit magazine’s website after her death, Fatima wrote about how she felt as well as what she intended to do with her last year of life. Her wish was to visit some of the top restaurants across the world whose chefs had inspired her over the years; she wanted to taste delicious ingredients from Europe and other parts of the world and was even invited by celebrity chef Rene Redzepi to his restaurant in Copenhagen.

In the essay, she said she wanted to spend her last days “making the most of life” rather than spending her time “lamenting”.

She had also initiated a campaign to help fund her adventures and also contribute to research on Ewing’s Sarcoma. After she had passed away, her family uploaded an official statement on her Instagram account.

“Though she’s no longer here with us, her spirit will continue to steer us,” read a line from the statement. “This has been a truly humbling experience for us all and even in her last chapter as she began to leave us, Fatima showed us how we should live.”

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2019