If you walked by Caleb Lam’s house on a Sunday, chances are you would smell the yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread wafting over you, or maybe you would hear the sizzling of meatballs over a hot skillet. Starting several years ago, Mr. Caleb Lam, one of Esperanza Academy’s high school mathematics teachers, has been teaching himself how to cook and bake. He enjoys perfecting unique recipes and taking exquisite photos of his creations. His Instagram page @cheatdaycooking has increased in followers recently, with his series of choux au craquelin, a profiterole or cream puff type of French delicacy. The soft pastry is filled with a sweet cream and then topped with a sugary crunch. He has experimented with different flavors for his choux au craquelin, like matcha, chocolate, and ube. Yet, his skills are not confined only to pastries. He enjoys researching various influencers and trying all types of cuisine.
Lam finds cooking to be fascinating due to its magical ability to create complexity from simplicity. “Life often forces us to submit to external realities. Indeed, our environment shapes us, but the process of creation is one of those rare opportunities where we get to shape our environment,” he says. “In creating something, we impose our will onto the things around us and form them into whatever we please. That is the beauty of cooking. It is nothing short of a miracle that we can create something so beautiful and tasty from just a couple of pantry ingredients.”
Lam grew up in Hong Kong but came to the United States in 2016 with the dream of being an urban educator. His Instagram bio perfectly explains how he uses his time, “school teacher on weekdays, home chef on Sundays.” He enjoys teaching his students math while teaching himself cooking, but also challenges those around them to be conscious of what they are creating in their lives. He says, “cooking is a combination of simple ingredients to create something extravagant, beautiful and complex. I would argue that willful creation is a gift from God that exemplifies the saying, ‘where there is a will, there is a way.’ Cooking is just one way we can create. What is your form of creation?”
The school community has benefited greatly from his cooking, especially during the past year with virtual learning. After his classes and baking were completed for the day, Lam would drive to neighboring teachers and gift his creations to the eagerly awaiting faculty members. His love for cooking has been born out of creativity, but he has used it to bless others and create meaningful connections, especially during a time when many teachers in our community felt isolated. Be sure to check out his drool-worthy Instagram page and be inspired to hone your own forms of creation.
Esperanza Academy is a K-12 institution in the heart of Hunting Park, Philadelphia. If you are interested in applying, visit us online at www.esperanzaacademycs.org/apply/.
Algebra and Croissants. (Foto: Caleb Lam’s/Cortesía)