MasterChef Where Are They Now: Sharone Hakman

It’s been 3 years since we first saw this strapping young man blow away Gordon, Graham, and Joe on the premier season of MasterChef.  I think most of us first noticed him for his good looks.  (When gathering photos of him for this blog entry from Google Images, the most common 3 searches for Sharone are “Sharone Hakman married,” “Sharone Hakman shirtless,” and “Sharone Hackman wife.”  Everyone wants a piece of this guy!)

I’m gonna be honest and say that watching Sharone’s performance on Season 1 ALMOST convinced me to wimp out on the auditions.  Most folks who followed Season 1 believed he was probably the most formidably talented contender, and I was intimidated as all heck watching him cook.  Despite the fact that Whitney Miller took the win over runner-up David Miller in the finals, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to compete on Season 2 if there was a contestant as talented as Sharone.  (There was…Christian Collins AND Adrien Nieto.)

Because I live in my head sometimes, even after the filming of my season was over and I had connected with many Season 1 folks, it wasn’t until Sharone reached out to ME that I felt comfortable talking to him.  And it turns out, he’s the nicest guy ever.  So today, on Father’s Day, I’d like to share with you all an update on this MasterChef father of 2 boys (the youngest of which has just recently arrived!)

Sharone and his stunning wife Monica still reside in Los Angeles with their two wonderful boys, and since MasterChef, Sharone’s entire life is given over to food and family.  You may remember that Sharone left a job as a financial planner to be on MasterChef.  And he never went back.  That takes some guts, and a LOT of trust from your spouse, especially when planning a growing family.  Financial planners certainly don’t suffer (though they may sweat when the market goes wonky), and leaving that kind of stability for an uncertain future in the world of food…I can imagine there were probably some stressful moments at home.  (A MasterChef producer told me that if she had a dollar for every marriage that was ended over reality TV shows she has produced, she could retire.)

But Sharone is no average cookie.  He has built a strong brand on the BBQ sauce he introduced to us on Season 1: HAKS sauce.  In fact, the other day I was walking through Central Market in Dallas and someone was doing a demonstration with Sharone’s sauces.  (I LOVE the Thai chile tamarind, I could smear it all over my body.)  These sauces are really extraordinary with explosive flavor, infinite complexity, and a truly masterful balance of sweet/savory/acid.  If you’d like to try some, chances are you can get it wherever you are in the US.  Vons, the Safeway family, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Pavilions, and Central Market all carry HAKS sauces.  That’s a pretty impressive roster, and I would imagine this probably makes Sharone the single most commercially successful contestant to come from the MasterChef US brand.

While Sharone tries to spend as much time as he possibly can at home with his wife and boys, he’s certainly not invisible from the LA food scene.  Together with Season 1 contestant Mike Kim, Sharone did a big fundraiser for breast cancer, and he works closely with the American Heart Association on fundraising projects.  He appears regularly on LA television, and has a cooking show that is being broadcast in Asia via Fox International Networks.  He even appeared as himself on an HSBC commercial:

Sharone has a “residency” at Umamicatessen, a massive LA complex similar to Bastianich’s Eataly in Manhattan.  Saturday nights in June and July (2013) you can learn and taste all about the sophisticated side of barbeque in his “BBQ Elevated” series, but space is extremely limited for these intimate classes.  Call 213-413-8626 for reservations.

I like asking MC survivors what their suggestions are to passionate home cooks who would like to be on MasterChef, and Sharone’s answer was enlightening, and probably even more appropriate for current seasons than for his own:

“Be yourself and continue on your journey in a positive light, regardless of where you are going.”

It’s so easy for people to allow their lives to be ruined in the aftermath of a reality TV show like MasterChef.  But that’s a choice, as Sharone so eloquently states.  You are not defined by MasterChef, no matter what happened to you on the show, no matter how you were portrayed.  You are defined how you choose to define yourself.  And whether you head back to the corporate world, or leave it all to bake cookies for a living, expect nothing but the best, and that’s exactly what will happen.

When I asked Sharone how MasterChef changed his life, his answer was simple:

“What I took away from MC was confirmation that this is what I want to be doing.”

And while that sounds like a simple affirmation, I can tell you based upon watching it time and again, walking away from your established life to plot a new course is NOT easy.  Especially if you have a family.  At least one marriage was broken up in the top 18 on my season.  (And only a few contestants were married.)  Many people, even folks from the top 100, left the security and stability of their former careers to forge new paths in the culinary world…which is NOT known for being as profitable as…oh, say…financial planning.

My hat’s off to Sharone for having the courage to realize his dream and follow it.  And double hats off to Monica for trusting him during what must have been a scary transition.

Sharon is the model MasterChef success story.  On this Father’s Day I wish him and his family nothing but the best, and hopefully we get to meet this summer when I’m in LA!  Check out Sharone’s stunning website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

8 Responses to MasterChef Where Are They Now: Sharone Hakman

  1. Of all the MC contestants that have gotten job offers from the hosts, I don’t think I can think of a single one that I know of that actually followed through. I also haven’t seen any real follow up on the winners, like how the cookbooks sold or what they’re doing now.

    Everyone I read about is still cooking and doing so on their own (but with the MC name as a lead in). I think Shital or Suzie said in an after season interview that Joe offered everyone jobs, so somebody must have taken one, right? Do you know anyone that actually took the job they were offered on the show?

    • Motty, no one in the history of the show has been offered a job by the judges. Creative editing may make it SOUND like that. But the judges’ invitations are for unpaid internships…ie staging. And MANY of the serious contestants HAVE staged in restaurants owned by the judges. For a week. 2 at the most. (A typical duration for a stage.)

      The problem with HIRING a contestant is that line cook positions pay about $8-10 an hour, even in NYC. This is the reason that over 90% of line cooks in the US are Latino, many of whom are in the guest worker program or are here illegally. Very few MC contestants are in a position to work for that kind of money. The only people paid more highly in the judges’ kitchens are the sous, chef de cuisine, and higher. And these people have typically been through culinary school, paid their dues on the line, and aren’t going ANYWHERE. You would NEVER see one of the judges actually hiring a home cook MasterChef contestant in a superior position in their restaurant…PERHAPS for a line cook. But who can live on $8 an hour?!?

      MasterChef has been VERY active in promoting last year’s winner, Christine. She travels around the world almost constantly representing the MC brand. She was on The Doctors this morning. SO they have been VERY diligent about promoting her.

  2. I recently rewatched Season 1 for the first time since it was transmitted, and what I immediately noticed was how much more spontaneous and less controlled many of the pressure tests and individual challenges were than in the following years. The contestants had to do things such as guessing the contents of Graham’s chilli and identifying obscure ingredients, and on those two challenges you could practically hear the producers and judges praying that Whitney wouldn’t mess up on her very first turn.

    In fact, when the challenge that partly led to Sharone’s elimination (making sculpin dishes and serving them to professional critics) came around, it seemed that the judges were genuinely surprised and even a little upset that Sharone and Whitney had the worst two dishes and got thrown into the pressure test. That, and the job offer that Sharone got from Joe after actually being eliminated, makes me think they had him in mind for the final two, even if they did seem to be leaning toward Whitney as the winner from very early on.

    But yeah, even if Sharone’s edit wasn’t always entirely complimentary, it was always clear just how much raw talent the guy had (heck, he even got Joe to enjoy a steak cooked sous vide style!) so it’s definitely good to see he’s doing so well.

  3. Gregory Wright

    Sharone was portrayed poorly, massive ego, know it all. Gotta love editing. SHocking he went home when he did…So nice to read a more realistic side of his story. Now I’ll have to go find this BBQ sauce!

  4. dearest ben starr, it is a bit embarrassing, but YOUR BLOG on MasterChef is actually waaaaay more entertaining that MasterChef!!!! How funny is that? Thank you for all of your brilliant rants and recaps and insider stuff. BTW–I have the WORLD’S best blueberry muffin recipe. I have always been obsessed with them and vOILA I invented the best one!!!! Tried yours. Not a true muffin is it with the creaming the butter and sugar? Love always AND YOU ARE FABULOUS!!!!!! xoxoxo

    • Lise, I’d love to make your blueberry muffin recipe if you’re willing to share! There are no hard-and-fast rules that state that muffins have to be made one method, and cupcakes the other. I have muffin recipes that fold in beaten egg whites, some that use the creaming method, some that are simply stirred together in a bowl. When it comes down to it, a cupcake is frosted, and a muffin isn’t. A cupcake is for dessert and a muffin is for breakfast.

  5. Even though season 1 was the one I saw of the least, I remember how good he was. Glad to know he’s doing awesome at what he loves.

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