It's no secret that basketball players expend a lot of energy. It's exhausting to even watch the Blue Devils run the 94-foot distance over and over again while also jumping to grab rebounds and exerting themselves on defense.
For that reason, it makes sense that food plays an important role in the life of a Division I basketball player, as they work to take care of their bodies. Duke seniors Jiselle Havas and Miela Goodchild and sophomore Vanessa de Jesus have proven this to be true in their Instagram blog named Duke Foodies, where their motivation is stated plainly in their bio: “It’s simple, we love food.”
Havas and Goodchild created the account at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with their first post Sept. 20, 2020 featuring an Arepa Culture NC food truck.
“We thought it's one way we could bridge the gap between Durham restaurants and Duke students,” Goodchild said.
At the time, students were following strict COVID policies, which transformed Duke Dining locations to pick-up only and prohibited eating in groups, among other things. Right outside campus the pandemic was leaving a mark on small businesses, especially the Durham restaurant scene.
“It was me and Jiselle being new to Duke and we wanted to get to know local businesses around the campus and we were like, ‘Why not share this with other Duke students?’” said de Jesus.
Since its founding, Duke Foodies has garnered close to 400 followers and shared 25 posts spotlighting local restaurants throughout Durham, Cary and Raleigh.
The careful composition of each post is evident in the account’s aesthetic appearance. In photos, the bold colors of each dish are paired with angles to highlight its best qualities. In their video posts, the players cover all the bases, showing followers the restaurant's layout before giving a close-up of their food preparation process.
“We make a reel, and that's just getting behind the counter and making sure that there's videos of them making the food and then from there we just do our own review about how we thought the food was and just the atmosphere and the culture of the place," said de Jesus.
Besides their love of basketball, the three teammates share a passion for food that dates back to their childhood. Goodchild grew up cooking alongside her parents. A native of Queensland, Australia, one of the first recipes she learned from her dad was for the classic Australian Anzac cookie, which she still makes to this day. Vegemite continues to be a staple in her kitchen, used on everything from spaghetti to toast.
“I just loved how food can really fuel you for moments… it's pretty much been my whole life," said Goodchild.
Like Goodchild, de Jesus connects to her origins through food, the latter having Filipino roots. She recalls memories of Friday nights spent cooking and eating her favorite Filipino dish, lumpia, alongside her mother.
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“I’ve always loved food and being able to have that in my life, it's something I can look towards other than basketball,” de Jesus said.
The three players were able to profit off their passion once local restaurants began to notice the account’s expansive platform. The first sponsored post dropped Oct. 28, 2021, where Havas promoted the local juice bar Juicekeys Durham and offered customers 15% off using the promo code DUKEWBB15.
If anyone’s an expert on Durham dining, it's the three Duke Foodies, who gave their hot take on the best restaurants they’ve reviewed in their blog so far. For good American food, de Jesus points to Local 22, and Goodchild recommends the fresh ingredients at the Durham poke bar ZenFish. All three foodies suggest that for a healthy dessert, stop by JuiceKeys Durham for a smoothie or power bowl.
While the players claim the blog serves the main purposes of allowing them to spend more time together and providing restaurant recommendations to Duke students, the endeavor is much more impactful than they realize. The account's recent dessert giveaway from the local, family-owned ice cream shop Pincho Loco, which received almost 50 entries, proves that blog has become a common thread to connect the various parts of an often disjointed community. From local business owners to Blue Devil sports teams to the greater Duke community, Duke Foodies is working toward a better Durham.
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle's women's basketball season preview. Find the rest here.