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Fuller Goldsmith, Former ‘Chopped Junior’ Champion, Dies of Cancer at 17

The Alabama native won the Food Network show at the age of 14

Fuller Goldsmith, a culinary wunderkind who competed on Bravo’s ‘Top Chef Junior’ and Food Network’s ‘Chopped Junior,’ has died at age 17, the production company Magical Elves reported on Wednesday.

“We are devastated after hearing about the loss of our Top Chef Junior alum, Fuller Goldsmith,” the company, which produced “Top Chef Junior,” wrote on Instagram. “He was an incredible chef and the strongest kid we’ve ever met. 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.”

Goldsmith, who grew up in Alabama and was a student at Tuscaloosa Academy, was a four-time cancer survivor. He had been battling acute lymphoplastic leukemia since age 3.

When he was 14, Goldsmith appeared as a contestant on “Chopped Junior,” a competition show for up-and-coming young chefs. After winning first place, he donated his $10,000 prize to the Division of Hematology and Pediatric Oncology at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

According to Goldsmith’s mother Melissa, he first expressed an interested in cooking at the tender age of 4 or 5, mimicking his parents as they prepared meals. Outside of the home, Goldsmith apprenticed at the Southern Ale House in Tuscaloosa, where he “spent a lot of time … helping prep, serve, and create recipes,” wrote Robert C. Holt, who co-owns and operates the restaurant with his son Justin, in a Facebook post.

“Our collective hearts are broken…” said Holt. “We will miss his presence, his smile, his laugh, his banter back and forth with [executive chef Brett Garner], and his grit as fought the aches and pains of a terrible disease. He will be missed but forever remembered. His spirit will remain in SAH for the remainder of time. To his family our love and compassion with a huge thank you for sharing Fuller with all of us. He made all of us better people.”

Goldsmith had many admirers in the culinary television community, too, among them his hero Guy Fieri, who surprised him at Stagecoach Music Festival in 2018. “What you’ve already accomplished in your life is amazing,” Fieri said when Goldsmith when told him that he had to withdraw from the final rounds of “Top Chef Junior” due to his cancer. “You don’t give up. … You gotta believe, you gotta trust, you gotta go, you gotta fight hard, and it’s not easy.”

Commenting on Magical Elves’ post, “Top Chef Junior” host Vanessa Lachey wrote, “We all Loved Fuller so much! And will never forget his contagious smile, laugh and butter tricks. Sending so much Love to his family. We will never forget you Fuller!”