By ROBERT LINNEHAN
There’s not a lot of difference between baking and basketball, it’s just a lot harder to drag a mixing bowl up and down the court.
Brian Zoubek, a member of Duke University’s 2010 national championship team, is taking the next step in his life and following one of his passions. Zoubek, of course, played an intricate part of Duke’s 2010 title run, leading the Blue Devils to their first championship since 2001.
But instead of rebounding and playing tough defense, Zoubek will be taking a different turn.
He’ll be baking. More specifically, baking cream puffs.
The seven-foot chef and aspiring businessman will be opening up his first venture, Dream Puffz (note the “Z” for Zoubek) on Saturday, July 21, with a grand opening ceremony scheduled for the morning.
The niche bakery, located at 605 Haddon Avenue, will specialize in nothing but the small pastries, selling them by the pound to hungry visitors and hopefully moving onto larger catered affairs, Zoubek said from the refurbished kitchen at his new bakery.
After graduating from Duke and being passed over in the NBA draft, Zoubek knew that he had to make the next move to transition into his future career. He started working on a tech project in New York City a year ago, but he quickly figured out that sitting in front of a computer for the rest of his life wasn’t going to be in his cards.
“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in front of a computer. When I was in New York City, I kept seeing all of these little niche shops doing well. That’s where I came up with the idea,” Zoubek said, as he leaned up against one of his ovens. “I wanted more control over my life and my destiny.”
But he knew that he didn’t want to step into the oversaturated market of gourmet cupcakes and macaroons.
“I never liked cupcakes growing up anyways. I always liked creampuffs; they were my favorite,” he said.
The bakery will churn out between 500 to 1,000 creampuffs a day during the beginning stages, he said, though luckily the break-even point for the shop is less than 500 sold for a day. Zoubek has some business training, as he started his collegiate career as an economics major, before dropping it for U.S. History when his basketball demands became too intense.
While the recipes were mostly his ideas — think chocolate covered, sea salt and caramel, and other various flavors — Zoubek lacked the baking background needed for such a large-scale operation.
That’s where Joseph Vella comes into the picture.
A graduate of the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Vella said he fell in love with baking and pastries when he worked at a Shoprite bakery during his youth. He went to the restaurant school and graduated with a degree specializing in pastries.
He responded to a Craigslist ad posted by Zoubek, interviewed, and found that he shared the same vision for Dream Puffz.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It will be my first head chef responsibility,” Vella said.
The duo will start cranking out the cream puffs on July 21 and hopes to carve out a corner of the market that doesn’t exist right now.