Atlantan Alejandro Valdivia makes semifinals on ‘Masterchef Legends’

Atlanta home chef Alejandro Valdivia in the semi-final episode of "Masterchef" airing Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.  CR: FOX.

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Atlanta home chef Alejandro Valdivia in the semi-final episode of "Masterchef" airing Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. CR: FOX.

The animal trainer and Cuban immigrant would love to become a TV food show star, win or lose.

Alejandro Valdivia, an Atlanta animal trainer, had his share of struggles early in “Masterchef,” landing in the bottom three a total of three times in the first five challenges but just escaping elimination.

He tended to put too much on the plate and scurry around without enough forethought. “I overcomplicated the dishes,” he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “I tried too many sauces. I was trying to prove to the chefs I deserved to be there. Some of my dishes weren’t coherent or pushed too much.”

Valdivia’s future did not look bright on the show.

But he rallied and found his footing partway through the competition. He simplified his dishes and focused more on what he was good at, especially cooking game.

He eventually won a couple of challenges and has landed in the final four, with the semifinals airing Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on Fox. He remains an underdog. Autumn Moretti, a Boston bartender, has not been in the bottom three a single time and is the favorite to win. And Suu Khin, a food blogger from Houston, has been consistent.

Next week, on Sept. 15, the winner will be crowned. [UPDATE: Valdivia did not make it to the finals.]

“Masterchef” could potentially crown Atlantans as winners two years in a row if Valdivia goes all the way. Last year, the “Masterchef” was Cartersville mom Dorian Hunter.

Valdivia’s breakthrough moment was the episode featuring celebrity chef Roy Choi that first aired Aug. 11 where the chefs had to “elevate” street food. His dish was a take on loaded fries with a hangar steak, poached eggs and truffle.

“It is definitely elevated,” judge Gordon Ramsay said on the show. “I love what you did with the steak.”

Joe Bastianich, another judge, said, “For the first time, we see you coming through on a plate and your skills are up to speed with the food you’re presenting ― finally! It’s been a long road.”

“I’m my own worst enemy and if I slow down, I can execute better,” Valdivia said in the seventh episode that aired Aug. 18 where he cooked for his hero Ramsay.

“Masterchef” has repeatedly emphasized Valdivia’s story as a poor Cuban immigrant.

“Less is more,” Ramsay said. “You grew up with very little so you go into a pantry like that, you want everything! My upbringing was very similar to yours.”

Valdivia was thrilled to have that connection with Ramsay.

“He has given me phenomenal tips and wisdom,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling to have someone you admire relate to what you related to. It’s crazy!”

His venison loin that day received solid reviews. “This is a whole other level,” Bastianach said.

Ramsay: “The timing is right to start growing. You’re doing it tonight.”

In an interview, Valdivia said, “that venison was my kind of cooking.”

Valdavia butted heads with his teammates during the 13th episode team challenge, especially New Jersey lifestyle coach Michael Newman.

“When you’re the captain, you have to lay down the law sometimes,” he said.

But by last week, he managed to cook a duck so well, he was able to sit out a challenge as a reward. Part of him wanted to voluntarily jump back in but he held back, deciding to just enjoy the break.

Win or lose, Valdivia said he’s looking to work in a restaurant and become an Anglo-Latino crossover TV food star.

“I’ve been training animals for 17 years,” he said. “I have trained celebrity dogs and dogs from the humane society. Thousands of them. I have fulfilled that part of me. My culinary journey is just taking off after this competition.”

ON TV

“Masterchef,” 8 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox

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