Lynbrook alumni: Jane Lee and Vishal Kalyanasundaram
November 7, 2022
Vishal Kalyanasundaram in “Indian Matchmaking”
Fans are enamored by the drama that unfolds on Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” as Vishal Kalyanasundaram rises from his seat and leaves the restaurant table, much to the shock of reality TV star Nadia Jagessar. Despite being a rising star, he shares his background with Lynbrook students as an alumni and cherishes his high school years, carrying Lynbrook’s spirit with him.
Kalyanasundaram currently resides in New York State, far from his alma mater. He fondly recalls his time at Lynbrook and his senior year, during which he served as a Class of 2012 officer and dedicated much of his time to making the year memorable for his class. He appreciates the ability given to students to pursue multiple passions.
“When you go to college, you end up having one major, and in the workforce, you do one thing,” Kalyanasundaram said. “But what I now appreciate about high school was getting exposed to such a plethora of courses and getting the opportunity to explore myself.”
Since high school, Kalyanasundaram’s perception of his culture and ancestry has shifted dramatically. He feels that internalized and externalized racism at Lynbrook influenced students’ perceptions of their cultures, and an extreme focus on academics prevented them from partaking in cultural traditions. However, Kalyanasundaram’s recent debut on Indian Matchmaking has helped him reconnect with his culture and join communities where he’s able to experience more of it, through attending events for festivals like Diwali.
“It’s been so great to be able to hang out in those circles and groups and keep learning about things I wasn’t exposed to before, and my knowledge and interest have only been growing,” Kalyanasundaram said.
Kalyanasundaram recalls the process of interviews and filming the show as extremely slow. After filling out a form indicating his interest in a show about Indian matchmaking, he and his parents went through multiple rounds of interviews, until he was accepted onto the show and set up to date a co-star for three to four weeks.
Even within the haphazardness of the filming process, Kalyanasundaram has stayed friends with people he met through the show and values the friendships he gained through “Indian Matchmaking.”
“The actual process of it was pretty fun,” Kalyanasundaram said. “Except for doing a breakup on camera, everything was good.”
The show’s most immediate impact on Kalyanasundaram was teaching him to have thicker skin and laugh off others’ unsolicited opinions.
“I don’t think I necessarily did anything that awful,” Kalyanasundaram said. “Things on TV are different from real life. But people just love talking smack about things, and now I’m learning to not really care and to be able to make fun of myself when other people say horrible things about me.”
To Kalyanasundaram, one of the biggest benefits of being in the second season of “Indian Matchmaking” has been the numerous experiences he now recounts in his acts as a part-time stand-up comedian. Kalyanasundaram has continued to work full time at Google and is grateful for the flexibility his job provides. He uses comedy to share his experiences and often talks about his family and dating life. His passion for comedy began in middle school, but he made the decision to truly commit himself when he was between his first and second job.
“I was looking for something to do with my time,” Kalyanasundaram said. “I didn’t want to just spend my time outside of work partying, watching TV or doing things that I didn’t think were good for the world. I wanted to create stuff and not just consume.”
Jane Lee takes the cake
Curled up next to a dimly-lit laptop, Jane Lee uploads a new recipe to her Asian-fusion dessert blog, Cake Barn. An alumnus of Lynbrook, Lee spends her days working in tech and cultivates her passion for food at night. Her blog displays an assortment of sun-lit bakery items, from pandan jelly to sesame cream puffs, connecting communities one recipe at a time.
Working full-time as a Senior Associate at Doordash and formerly a part-time Barista at Sue’s Gallery Café, she has maintained her roots in the Bay Area. Her time at Lynbrook in the Class of 2015 was a mix of positives and negatives — while she acknowledges the overwhelming achievement-oriented culture, she reminisces about high school memories of being a part of a French horn quartet and conducting bake sale fundraisers for charity.
“Classes and homework — things you do in the moment eventually pass, but the connections and friends that you make will stick,” Lee said.
Summer after high school, she started her first job at Main Street’s 85 Degrees, where she packaged bread. Despite her passion for food businesses, time constraints and academic pressure led her to set aside baking until she finished undergrad. Besides being a part of University of Pennsylvania’s cuisine magazine, Penn Appetit, Lee believed that UPenn’s creative opportunities were limited. Although being a part of such a large organization was inspiring, she craved more control in recipe development.
“Study what you’re interested in and things will work out,” Lee said. “Once I started working, everything I needed to know was learned on the job, so ultimately it didn’t really matter what major I chose.”
After graduating from college in 2019, she worked part-time at Paris Baguette, her first time hired officially as a baker. Looking back, she’s grateful for her first experience operating a commercial kitchen — operating the oven, donning an apron and earning the shop’s keys. Since graduating, she’s maintained part-time jobs to supplement her full-time jobs.
“I love learning about other people, how they live and experiencing it next to them through working all these different jobs,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of value in immersing yourself in different kinds of work, next to a diverse set of people.”
Born in Hong Kong, Lee moved to the U.S. when she was five, though frequently visiting her homeland. Food united her family members: strung around a dinner table, sharing chopsticks, or people swarming to the cake, chanting ‘happy birthday!’ before blowing out candles. In middle school, she dreamed of being a chef, allured by the creative aspects of developing recipes and the unity it sparks. Lee takes Asian flavors that she grew up eating and incorporates them into recipes online.
“It’s a strange experience being in between cultures, but I imagine a lot of Asian Americans can probably agree that their cultural ties have a lot to do with the flavors and foods that they grew up with,” said Lee. “Baking, to me, is putting a piece of myself into a tangible product that I can share with people and bring them together.”
Lee started her baking blog, Cake Barn, to document her tweaked recipes, while her baking business started with friends requesting desserts through Instagram. Despite the stress of catering orders, Lee is moved by the trust of her customers. Her most popular item is the strawberry citrus shortcake: a Korean yuzu-jam infused vanilla chiffon cake, lemon-curd whipped cream layers, and topped with yuzu glazed strawberries.
“It’s a very basic Asian bakery-style cake but I’ve nailed every part of it to the tee, people always ask for it,” Lee said.
Balancing time continues to be a challenge she struggles with, as her resources are constrained. Although she wants to do all she can to continue and grow the business, her limited time is a barrier to some of her goals.
Her ultimate goal is to eventually open her own cafe, drawing from her past experiences in the food industry. She wishes to create a welcoming space, where anyone would feel comfortable and connected with the community.
“I think somehow things just fall into place the way they’re meant to be. The best thing you could do for yourself is just to stay true to yourself and do what feels natural,” Lee said.