Speaking at the Between Bites chef storytelling series in Chicago on January 28, Joe opened up about how that friendship blossomed — and the heartbreak of it being cut short.
After Chef Fati passed, "my life changed really drastically," Joe began his story by telling the crowd. He explained that he learned of his friend's passing by way of a text from her brother.
But the way he learned about her terminal cancer diagnosis was less direct: After initially sharing with Joe and other members of her Top Chef family that her mysterious pain was actually caused by cancer, Fatima learned that her illness was terminal. She revealed that diagnosis in a moving essay for Bon Appetit, and it was only with its publishing that Joe learned the devastating news about his friend.
"Me and my wife found out we were pregnant in April. On October 9 we were driving to a doctor’s appointment," he recalled. "I had been trying to reach Fati for weeks, I was going to New York — I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to get dinner. And an article comes out. It Bon Appetit, and it says, 'My name is Fati Ali and I have a year to live.' And that’s how she told all of us.”
Recalling the painful memory, Joe paused to process his emotion, and apologized to the crowd for his display. "Sorry," he said, choking back tears.
In all, he spoke for about 20 minutes to a silent and rapt crowd. Listen to Joe's entire tribute to Fati.
If you would like to donate to the Sarcoma Foundation of America, visit curesarcoma.org.
Story recording and editing: Adam Miller
The Feast is Bravo’s digital destination serving culinary inspiration and essential food news. Like us on Facebook and visit daily for diet and wellness trends, kitchen hacks and tools — and the buzziest celebrity, chef, and restaurant happenings you need to know about right now.