In an essay written for Bon Appetit magazine three months before her death on Friday from bone cancer, Ali showed her warrior spirit. The full essay will be in the magazine’s March print edition, but was shared online “to honor her memory,” according to the website.
The essay detailed Ali’s life and her final months when a grim outcome appeared inevitable. Still, she refused to wallow in misery.
“I decided not to spend whatever time I had left (whether it’s a year, a month, another ten years—you don’t know until you’re gone) lamenting all the things that weren’t right,” Ali wrote. “Instead, I’d make the most of it. I’m using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them. If I write this intention down, if I have it printed somewhere like I do here, I have to hold myself responsible, because I have people counting on me.
Ali began her essay with some memories of her Pakistan childhood and her early days as a low-level cook and manager in New York restaurants after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. It was an exhilarating time, filled with challenges to be overcome. She made it to Top Chef in 2017, and though she didn’t win, she was voted a fan favorite for her Pakistani influenced cooking. Her future looked bright as she aimed toward opening her own restaurant and introducing the world to the wonders of her home country’s cuisine.
But an excruciating pain in her shoulder refused to respond to Advil, and eventually led her to the emergency room. She wound up in chemotherapy.