The turning point in Duke’s 2010 national championship season was an early February win over Maryland.
Center Brian Zoubek got his first start in two months and responded with 17 rebounds and 16 points. He started the rest of the way as the team stormed through the tournament and won Coach K’s fourth national title.
“I’m going to try to figure out what he did last night, what he had for training meal,” Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “He’s having them all the time now.”
Two years later, Krzyzewski looked back on the championship team and used video of Zoubek’s performance to motivate the 2012 squad.
“Look at the banners. They weren’t won without energy, without hunger,” Coach K said.
With his playing days behind him, Brian Zoubek is staying hungry.
“I’m just a fat kid at heart,” he said of his latest career venture—a bakery in Haddonfield, NJ that specializes in cream puffs.
“It’s called Dream Puffz,” Zoubek said proudly. “That’s with a Z.” He originally wanted to call it “Heavenly Cream Puff Creations,” but zoning regulations limited the size of the store’s sign.
It seems strange for the 7’1” former center to be putting on a baker’s hat. For Zoubek, however, it’s about the challenge and competition of starting his own business.
For nearly a year, he’s been working at a start-up mobile technology company named Foster LLC, but he wasn’t getting his hands dirty, so to speak.
“I was involved in a little bit of a tech venture. It was going well, but I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all day. I wanted something a little more hands on. I wanted to own my own thing, 100%,” Zoubek said.
Now he’s up to his armpits in flour.
“The last couple months I’ve learned to do it all myself,” Zoubek said. “There’s a young chef I’ve been working with as well. I’ve been learning about recipes, all of it. It’s fun to get in kitchen and bake and come up with new things.”
And perhaps the best part is getting to taste what he’s created. “I’m working out even more now than when I was playing,” he said. “I eat it all the time.”
“I just like to eat,” he added. “Growing up I ate all that kind of stuff.”
What better place to make the comfort food from his childhood than back in his home town of Haddonfield?
“I had this concept I’d been thinking about for a few years, to get into the food industry,” he said. “There was a little place next to where I’d grown up, a few towns over, that I’m basing it off of.”
The cupcakes-only bakeries that were the hottest trend in dessert stores a few years ago have faded in popularity, and Zoubek thinks his puffs are just the thing to fill the void.
“We do all cream puffs. They’re fresh and natural. We plan to do a lot of catering. It’ll open in three or four weeks,” he said.
“The plan, because I’m kind of a rookie,” he continued, “is to get the model down in Haddonfield, where I have a little bit more of a support system and safety net. We’ll work out all the kinds, see how it goes, and hopefully bring it to New York City within a short little while. I’ve lived in New York, and I think it’ll do well there.”
Still, Zoubek has to admit that there’s something funny about him spending four years banging under the ACC boards, and then embracing a product that’s known for being soft in the middle.
“I get a little bit of crap for it. A little bit of ribbing, but I’ve got a great support system,” Zoubek said. “It’s fun. I honestly wouldn’t trade my job for anything else. I love it, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep doing it and have good success with it.”
The teammates at the Coach K Academy were supportive.
“I haven’t tried Zoub’s puffs yet, but I’m going to,” Nolan Smith said. “He’s a great guy with a great mind.”
“I heard about it from one of the other guys,” David McClure said. “We gave him a call and had a few laughs about it. But he seems to love it. I have too many friends who aren’t happy with what they’re doing right now. So I applaud him for doing what he loves to do.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Zoubek said. “I’m going to be an entrepreneur the rest of my life. I can’t honestly, at this point, see myself doing anything else.”