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A New Documentary Remembers Chef Fatima Ali

The film follows six women who’ve carved their way into the restaurant industry.

Adrienne Longo, Electric Love Studios

Adrienne Longo, Electric Love Studios

If you need a nudge back to in-person dining — or that long-abandoned cacio e pepe recipe — book an evening with director Peter Ferriero’s documentary Her Name Is Chef.

Adrienne Longo, Electric Love Studios

Viewers ride sidecar as host Leia Gaccione interviews six chefs pre-pandemic — Fatima Ali, Esther Choi, Elizabeth Falkner, Juliet Masters, Caroline Schiff, and Hillary Sterling — about their entry-level days, harassment, and machismo in the kitchen.

Adrienne Longo, Electric Love Studios

Told collectively, their stories show a pattern of resilience from women in the industry, and how siloed individuals push forward against abuse and systemic inequity.

Adrienne Longo, Electric Love Studios

Food Network regulars might remember one subject, Fatima Ali, who won a 2012 episode of Chopped, and was a fan-favorite contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef: Colorado in 2017.

She Had Fans In High Places.

Ali appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2018.

Solanne Fardel Images

Shortly after Top Chef, the Pakistani cook was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ewing's sarcoma, and a few months after filming Her Name Is Chef, texted the director saying her cancer had returned.

She passed away in January 2019 at age 29.

She loved really hard. ... She was a magical thinker, and made you laugh all the time.

Padma Lakshmi on Fatima Ali, in a video interview that’s embedded into the film.

Solanne Fardel Images

Ali’s story is given ample breathing room in the film’s second half, pivoting the documentary’s guiding tenor from resilience toward something like culinary carpe diem.

Solanne Fardel Images

It becomes a tribute to the late chef, and is at its strongest when showing intimate moments between Ali and her family, and among her peers.

You make plans for your life. ... And sometimes you just don’t get that timeline the way you wanted it, [but] there’s no holding back anymore.

Chef Fatima Ali, near the film's end.

I’m In. Where Can I Watch It?

The film is currently streaming on Hulu, and available on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and elsewhere.

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