Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Padma Lakshmi says Fatima Ali was a one-of-a-kind person.
The 48-year-old Top Chef judge remembered Ali on Wednesday's episode of Watch What Happens Live following the Season 15 contestant's death from cancer.
"She was very ambitious and she was tenacious. I've never met anybody like her, and obviously after the show I became very close to her and her family," Lakshmi told host Andy Cohen.
Lakshmi said one of her favorite moments with Ali came after she bluntly critiqued the contestant on Top Chef.
"The moment that she realized that she could treat her flavors from where we are -- from south Asia -- the same way she treated western cuisine, that that was a lightbulb moment for her," the star recalled.
"During a quickfire when I knew she could do better and I knew she could take it -- and I don't usually lay into contestants that way ... I thought she would benefit from that kind of straight talk," she said. "Later, after the show obviously, we spoke about it and she just said, 'Yes. Thank you. I want somebody that can tell me straight."
Ali died at age 29 in January after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare type of cancer which affects bone and soft tissue, in 2017. Lakshmi subsequently wrote an essay about how Ali changed her life forever.
"When I heard she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, I felt punched in the gut," the star said.
"You couldn't know Fatima without falling in love with her. Her self-awareness, strength and humor were boundless, even until the very end," she lauded. "Fatima's life was short, but her imprint on me will be there forever."
Top Chef is in the midst of a 16th season on Bravo.