When Sarah Lane appeared on Season 1 of “MasterChef Junior” back in 2014 — when she infamously shouted, “Whip it like a man!” on the third episode — she was only 9 years old. Now 17 and gearing up for her senior year of high school, Lane remembers her time on the Fox show fondly. “All of us became very close over the filming of the season,” Lane tells Anna Rahmanan in this Voices in Food story. In addition to discussing the fun times on the show, Lane dives deep into the technicalities involved in starring on a reality program, the regrets she has (and those she doesn’t) and advice to would-be Food Network stars.
I had never done television before “MasterChef Junior.” I didn’t have an agent or a manager. Someone posted an open call on Facebook and the auditions were pretty close to where I lived, and my mom [asked me if I wanted to go]. There were hundreds of kids at the audition.
At the time, my grandmother owned a restaurant in Pennsylvania and I would [sometimes] be a hostess there, so I knew about the industry and what working in it would entail.
Honestly, I don’t have any regrets except that once you go behind the scenes of a television show and see how everything is done—how the production works, how they edit everything — then it is hard [not to think of that when watching TV]. Whenever I watch “MasterChef,” I can almost pick out who wins from the first episode, and so [shooting the show] kind of killed the magic a bit.
What people don’t know about the show is the amount of downtime that the kids get. We’d go home around 4 or 5 p.m. every day and then just hang out at the hotel until the next morning. Everyone on our season got very close. We would spend a lot of time together.
I think it’s interesting to see how everyone ended up doing different things: Sofia Hublitz is now one of the main characters on “Ozark,” Dara Yu goes to the Culinary Institute of America and Alexander Weiss, who was the winner of our season, does a million different internships in restaurants.
I think the whole experience was definitely an interesting one. Dara Yu cried on the show and they aired it and it was a big controversy, but it’s a reality show and that is what they want. They also edit parts of interviews. They have a plan for how the season is going to go, so they leave things that make their plan work because that is how TV works. So sometimes, you make an off-the-cuff comment about someone else and they’ll leave it in and that can lead to [controversy].
“Whatever you say in front of the camera, the show has a right to air.”
In one episode, [contestant] Troy Glass was frustrated with me. In his interview, he was saying things like, “Sarah is the worst and I don’t want her on my team.” They left that in. I don’t think it was their intention, but Troy ended up getting a lot of hate because of that comment and he had to deactivate his Twitter account. I think the crew tries to steer away from that now, but I think since it was the first season, they didn’t necessarily know how fans would react to certain things.
But you have to know that it is national television, so a lot of people are seeing what you are saying. You have to be mindful and realize that whatever you say in front of the camera, the show has a right to air.
I think the best thing that kids who want to be on the show can do is be their authentic selves. That is how you get on the show. A lot of people think they need to have a personality and be a character because that is what people want to see, but the thing is, [the audience] actually wants to see real people on TV. They want to see you being your authentic self. That’s why I got a lot of fans after the show: When people met me in real life, I was exactly the way I was on the show and I didn’t have to create a personality that I had to keep up with. That could be very exhausting. It’s important to realize that they want you and not a caricature of what you think that they want you to be.
It’s also important to realize that if you try out for the show and don’t make it, it’s truly not the end of the world. One of the things that made my experience so enjoyable is that my mom and I always had a realistic outlook on what the show would be and how it was going to be a good experience but I probably wasn’t going to win.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.