Confession: I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Cheban’s for a really long time. Like, a reeeeeeally long time. Like, back before-he-ran-the-coolest-Instagram-food-account-ever long. Back when he was the owner of CommandPR and people still called him Jonathan Cheban. He goes by Foodgod now, in case you didn’t know. And if you didn’t, you clearly haven’t been, well… keeping up. Because if you know who Kim Kardashian is, then you know that Foodgod truly is a god of food. And Jonathan Cheban’s Foodgod Instagram account — as well as the blog and YouTube channel he spun off of it — prove that while he may not cook food, or even actually review it in any traditional way, he *lives* it 365 days a year.
The story about how Cheban made the decision to rebrand himself as Foodgod back in November 2017 involves Kanye West and a stop at an airport McDonald’s on the way to Iceland. You know, like every good story does. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Because in order to understand the name change, you need to first understand how the man you once knew solely as KKW’s BFF graduated from sidekick status to a celebrity in his own right.
If you’ve ever stood in line for a Rainbow Bagel or posted a pic of the limited edition, color-changing Unicorn Frappucino at Starbucks, then you understand the magic of Instagrammable food. And that’s something Foodgod seems to have tapped into and ceremoniously exploited on social media long before anyone else.
"People don’t just want food," he tells me in an exclusive interview for Elite Daily. "They want food and people and a vibe. It’s a mix of everything, and that’s what I give them."
And by "them," he means his three million followers, who tune in on the daily for epic culinary inspo by way of Froot Loop donuts, Gummy Bears slathered in gold fondue, and the genius that is ravioli pizza.
"I had corn-on-the-cob dipped in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos powder the other day," he tells me. "It was amazing."
Foodgod is not so much a food critic as he is an influencer and tastemaker who posts dope pics of his trendy, zeitgeisty meals and desserts. He also knows things about food the rest of us don’t — like, say, the fact that McDonald’s has a sercet buffalo sauce for its chicken nuggets, and that the makers of Sour Patch Kids will be dropping a new cereal on Dec. 26. — and that’s exactly what makes his account so much fun to follow.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he also posts pics of himself hanging out with the Kardashians and other celebs at various of-the-minute hot spots around the globe — like Swan in Miami’s Design District, where he recently dined with Kanye.
"It’s the hottest place in the country right now," he divulges.
Me: clicks over to OpenTable to try and make a res for Christmas break. Also me: fails miserably.
Foodgod’s love of eating didn’t start recently, BTW. It’s been a part of him since he was a school kid back in the late ’80/early ’90s.
"I was always hoping for pizza day on Wednesdays so I could buy pizza," he explains. "Or Sloppy Joes on Thursdays. I always loved food. Before I could afford to eat out every day, I’d be begging my mom to make me crepes on Saturday when it was only Tuesday."
I feel that! I mean, it’s a Monday morning when I jump on the phone with him and I’m already dreaming about the chicken wings I plan to order on Friday night. Of course, mine won’t be dipped in 24K gold like the ones Foodgod invented for The Ainsworth last spring, but otherwise, it’s like we are totally the same person. You know, minus the fact that he’s the reigning food king of Instagram, with millions of followers who roll up on the daily to worship at his social media temple.
Oh, and BTW, when Foodgod says he eats out 365 days a year, it’s not an exaggeration. Not even a slight one.
"I literally eat out every single day," he says. "Maybe on Thanksgiving I’ll eat dinner at home. But I will go out for lunch before that. I don’t even eat breakfast at home."
I’m not jealous, you are. I mean, the dude doesn’t even make his own coffee.
"I’m not a snacker, so I just eat meals and then have cappuccinos in between," he explains. "Right now, I’m really into the new Dunkin’ cappuccinos. I also like a Lavazza single shot cappuccino, whole milk, no cinnamon. Everyone puts cinnamon on it now. But it’s like when someone brings me a Diet Coke with a lemon. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t want it."
I tell him he sounds like Sally Albight trying to order apple pie à la mode in the movie When Harry Met Sally.
"Every one of my orders is like that!" Foodgod says with a laugh.
I love how particular he is when it comes to his food adventures. He won’t order rock shrimp, for example, because he thinks it’s a novice move. And condiments are apparently his kryptonite. "I won’t eat mustard or cinnamon or relish or horseradish," he tells me.
So what could someone order that would impress him?
"I love caviar," he says. "I like people who are bossy and ballsy enough to order caviar." Note to self.
Foodgod also likes cool new products with customizable options, which is why his new gig as the face of BurgerIM — a Cali-based restaurant chain that sells mini, customizable burgers in party boxes of two, three, or 16 — seems like such a perfect fit.
"I saw pictures of the burgers and the party boxes and I knew my followers would love it, so I went in to check it out," he recalls. "The store was so modern with writing everywhere and there was a full bar. I loved the burgers. I loved the way it looked. People want Instagrammable stuff, and this was it. The next thing I knew, the CEO had contacted me."
Nice work if you can it, right? And Foodgod apparently can. There is even a special Foodgod burger now in the works. And while he won’t tell me what it will be, he hints that it might be dessert-related. Not a big surprise, given that things like ice cream, donuts, and cotton candy take up three-quarters of his Instagram feed.
"Anything that has to do with cotton candy I have to try immediately," explains. "I love the taste, the texture, the smell of that burning sugar. All of it."
If he was a condemned prisoner, though, he says his last meal wouldn’t be in the confection fam at all. It would be a savory meal. But not at Nobu, as I would have predicted. "It would be Mr. Chow’s," he tells me. "Chicken satay, squab, Mr. Chow’s noodles, Peking duck… It’s all just so delicious."
And as for that story about Mickey D’s that I mentioned earlier, it goes a little something like this: Kanye and Foodgod walk into an airport McDonald’s on their way to Iceland.
"I had just told Kanye about the name Foodgod 20 minutes before," Foodgod explains. "So, he yells across the store ‘Yo, Foodgod can u get me a Diet Coke?’ Once I saw that the name resonated with Kanye, I knew it was good."
And while the official legal name change is apparently still in the works ("It’s a long process," he tells me) the king of foodstagram doesn’t really seem too concerned.
"Everyone already calls me Foodgod in the streets," he explains. "I’ve morphed into it. I live it. It feels weird when someone calls me Jonathan now. I am Foodgod."
And you’re doing amazing, sweetie.
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