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.