Jonathan Cheban Is More Than A Longtime Kardashian BFF, Okay?

Ever wondered what it’s like to be in a celebrity’s inner circle? In our series The Plus One, Arianna Davis offers a peek inside the world of assistants, backup dancers, BFFs, and other right hands to the world’s buzziest celebs. Check out the second installment, here.

Long before Kanye West entered the picture, Jonathan Cheban was the man in Kim Kardashian's life. But in all of my years as a KUWTK viewer and Kardashian follower, I've often wondered: Who is this guy, really?

Chances are — even if you only have the most peripheral interest in America's most controversial family — you've wondered the same thing. The perfectly-coiffed Kardashian BFF seems to be ever-present on the edges of pap pics, and routinely shows up in random scenes of the show. After one afternoon when I fell into the rabbit hole of Cheban's social media accounts (photos of pricey diamond watches worth my student loan debt on Instagram, clips of glamorous jaunts to St. Tropez on Snapchat) I decided to find out what, exactly, Cheban does.

Is he an entrepreneur?! I wondered. Another Scott Disick-like born-rich kid just passing the time with this famous family? Google didn't offer much insight. According to his Wikipedia, Cheban got his start in PR; on Instagram, his bio simply reads "Foodgōd." As I dug further, it became clear that Cheban is also a proprietor of Gossip site The Dishh, as well as the rumored owner of a private school for rich kids. Suffice to say, he's a man who wears a lot of (expensive and fancy) hats.

Ultimately, I decided to go straight to the source and debunk what he actually does on like, a daily basis, with his life. One breezy afternoon in August, I spent the day with the man himself, who brought me along on a day of pre-travel errands while also making sure I understood that he's far from a rich-kid mooching off of his famous friends. And despite his overuse of hyperbolic words and phrases (everything is "insane" and he literally "can't even") somehow after the dizzying day, I walked away from my encounter with Cheban believing him.

Take a walk through our slideshow of a day in Cheban's life and judge for yourself. Warning: It may be hard to... keep up. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)

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Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Getting Acquainted
When I walk into Cheban's two bedroom apartment in New York's Flatiron neighborhood, I halfway expect to hear a voiceover from the British guy from The Fabulous Life. Instead, I'm met with Cheban's affected accent, East Coast with a touch of new Hollywood.

"Let me shut off Wendy Williams," he says by way of greeting. "She's nuts, but I watch her almost every day because she's usually right." I'm relieved to quickly realize that during our day together, Cheban won't be filtering himself. As he gives me a tour of his NYC home base (surprisingly, he doesn't have a place in Los Angeles), I waste no time asking him,What the hell do you do?

Turns out that answer is just as manifold as the internet told me. In no particular order here is what the hell he does: He's an entrepreneur with "a bunch" of businesses, including a meal delivery service called Prepped. He owns, as previously mentioned, The Dishh. Then there's his endorsement deals, which include something called Fold Flats, which Cheban describes as "cool looking business cards attached to unbreakable pens."

But while he is definitely living the #glamlife now, it wasn't always that way. Cheban told me he's been working since age 16, including at a dry cleaners, as a Blimpie's delivery boy, and at the David Letterman Show back in the day. Eventually, he moved into the PR world. "I had zero money," he says. "Everything is all self-made — every single thing. When people say they assume I'm just a lazy rich kid, I think, I've probably worked harder than you'll ever work in your life."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Busting At The Seams
These days, Cheban spends a lot of time in meetings or making business-related appearances. Between hair appointments, shopping, and check-ups with various doctors (more on that later), he's also got an impressive primping repertoire: "Looking good is just part of this business," he says. "There's shopping, there's appointments, there's hair, there's tanning. It doesn't stop."

After making a loop around his master bath and bedroom (which is home to a $4,000, 14-karat gold bottle of oud cologne), he shows me a guest room and second bathroom — neither of which we can fully walk into because they're crammed with racks of clothing.

"Everything in here is literally brand new," he says of closets so full they barely close, and a bed covered in jackets and jeans. "It's like a machine of new clothes coming in every day. I'm keeping this crazy jacket somebody made of Kim and Kanye just because it's so fucking dope."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Rolling Up His Sleeves
Walking through the kitchen, Cheban confesses that in his six years of living in the apartment, he's never used it. "One time I had a deep dish pizza sent to me from a special place in Chicago," he says. "They don’t send it to anyone, but they sent it to me. And I literally brought it to a pizzeria called L&B in Brooklyn — a pizzeria that’s packed and has a million people.

"I asked the pizzeria owner if we could put someone else’s pizza in his oven. And he did it. He loved it! He's a legend and he let me put someone else's pizza in his oven. That’s how much the kitchen in my apartment doesn’t get used."

What does get used is the dining area, but not for food: It's where Cheban's assistant leaves the half-dozen or so boxes that arrive daily, packages full of free swag from companies hoping for a social media shoutout. "I come home to lemonades, pizza pillows, drones, a popsicle maker, a football helmet speaker. My mom comes over and is like what is going on here?! I feel like it's my birthday every day."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Interior Vision
"I had two decorators in my apartment and I fired them both," Cheban explains. "They started talking about like, mid-century and I was like: Bye. That is not me. I know what I like. I love dark and cozy and monochromatic. I decorated here six years ago and it was awesome then, but I hate it now. It needs to be completely redone. It does look insane at night time, because everything glows." We'll have to take his word for it.

On the fireplace mantle are a variety of design books and throwback framed pictures — including this shot with Khloé, Kelly Osbourne and another friend. I ask him who his favorite Kardashian of the moment is, aside from the obvious answer.

"I love Kourtney, we have a lot of fun together. Khloé's the most fun. But Kourtney: We laugh nonstop. And we travel a lot. But you know what? I also really like Chyna. People don't realize she's really funny, and she’s a big foodie like me, too. She’s always asking, like 'Jonathan where’s that place? And this place, and that place?!'"
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Shoe Games
In Cheban's front hallway are rows and rows of perfectly lined, neutral-colored kicks. "I probably have like 30 something pairs of sneakers in the apartment. I’ve given away hundreds," he says. "I probably have 10 pairs of Yeezys."

As a Kanye stan — but also just a human curious about what it's like to be friends with 'Ye — at the mention of Yeezy, I wonder aloud: What is Kanye really like?

"Kanye is the best," Cheban gushes. "I’m obsessed with him to the nine. There’s nobody smarter, cooler. I sit for hours talking to him sometimes. There's nobody more amazing, brilliant, innovative. He talks to me and I leave him and I’m like How am I going to talk to regular people now? And he controls fashion! He made Adidas, an entire brand, relevant again. Even separate from the Yeezys, people are wearing Adidas again now."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Self Love
Cheban is fully aware that his life is a little unrelatable these days. "People would not believe my life," he says more than once during the day we spent together — and I confess that I'm having a tough time believing it myself.

"There is always something insane happening. There are always people following me. I'm always ducking in and out of back entrances, even in my own apartment building."

I consider this as my eyes graze over a custom self-portrait by Kfir Moyal that hangs on Cheban's wall. It seems to scream: I'M OBSESSED WITH MYSELF, SO WHAT? At first I roll my eyes, making note of the narcissism. But then I think: Is it really so wrong to be obsessed with yourself?

And wouldn't I want a fancy bedazzled portrait of myself if I were mega rich? Short answer: Yes, absolutely.
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Breakfast, Foodgōd Style
And then we're off — me, Cheban, his publicist, and our photographer head to a favorite neighborhood breakfast spot, Blank Slate, for avocado and ricotta toast.

"I have a very sensitive palate, so I taste food more than other people do," he explains of his food obsession. "When I eat these strawberries, they tastes ten times better to me than it will to you. Sometimes food tastes so good that I fall off the chair, like in an amazing place like Rome, I'll have a ravioli and a shock goes through my system. It’s the real deal."

He immediately starts Snapchatting his plates as soon as they arrive. I ask: How does one end up appointing oneself a "Foodgōd"?

"I'm always posting about food and people, regular people, celebrities, they'd all say 'I love your stuff, oh my God I'm going to get fat just looking at your Instagram,'" he explains. "And then I was with some friends at Sugar Factory and they randomly brought me a burger with white chocolate sauce. My friend's girlfriend was like: You're like the food god! It stuck."

Cheban has learned a thing or two from the Kardashian empire, though: Everything is about staging. "I need the perfect picture or Snap — it has to be pretty. Sometimes I make the waiter come back and bring the dish with more enthusiasm."

When I ask how he stays so slim while constantly eating, he answers without missing a beat: "Because I'm the Foodgōd."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
A Bite Out Of Life
The first stage of the Foodgōd empire is Prepped, Cheban's gourmet meal delivery service that is currently delivering in the tristate area and expanding nationwide soon. "It's all amazing, high-quality food with my flair and style," he says.

"Right now we're doing something that's like a Foodgōd special, with only meat from Pat La Frieda because it's the best meat in New York. We'll have delicious steaks, or fluffy Japanese pancakes, or chicken with waffles. It's all about the way the food tastes, the way it looks, the way it feels. Soon I want to have restaurants like Tao do amazing dumplings or dim sum.

"People in like, Ohio don't get to go to the amazing restaurants in New York or Miami or L.A." he adds. "They don't get this kind of food, so I want to bring it to them."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Bright Future
After his morning toasts — which, I will admit, were as delicious as he hyped them up to be — Cheban heads to Dover Street Market to check out some potential looks for his MTV Video Music Awards outfit, including this $475 neon orange shearling jacket.

"Looking good is a constant," he reiterates. "You have to go shopping for clothes and do hair and all that in between everything else like deals and appearances. I have to be prepped."

Could a fashion business be next?

"I stay in my lane. Food is my thing. My mom is really chic, but I don’t like shopping with women — nobody, not even Kim. I don’t like dressing rooms, or women’s stores. I hate clothes shopping. I barely like it for myself. To me it’s death to sit there while somebody’s trying stuff on. I start freaking out."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Diamonds Are Forever
Cheban's next stop is Leon, a family-owned jewelry business on 47th Street that he frequents often. He mentions that he brought fellow friend-of-Kardashians and his own former business partner, Simon Huck, here a couple weekends ago to find a diamond watch. On the wall are photos of past customers like Ice Cube, Swizz Beats, and Jim Jones, showing off their chains.

"I just want everything to look like pure ice," he tells the jeweler as he sifts through a tray of options to borrow for VMA night. He settles on two chains: $95,000 each. "I just want to live in these. They feel really right."

When I ask for a price range of how much the chains he's currently already wearing cost, he jokes. "I can't say. Family heirlooms."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
After spending an afternoon shopping for diamonds, I have to ask Cheban about the school for wealthy kids he has talked about opening — a concept that received plenty of side-eye for its alleged curriculum, which centered on topics like private aviation and evaluating diamond quality.

"It was never my school. I was just helping consult," Cheban clarifies. "It was a tiny article in a tiny magazine and people just make up stuff. I don’t have time to start a school. I don’t understand where that came from. I said I’m helping them with their pop culture program. Who the hell has time to start a school? That was crazy." Consider the record set straight.
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
A Girl's Best Friend
Before Cheban leaves, the jewelers make sure to bring out their latest piece of jewelry: A $3.5 million pink diamond ring that just arrived that same day.

By the way they look expectantly at Cheban it's clear the salespeople are hoping he'll show it to someone in particular. Sure enough, Cheban gasps. "This will make Jennifer Lopez look poor — remember that pink diamond she had?" he asks. It's less than a minute before he whips out his phone to take a photo and sends it to Kim.

"I don’t really mind when people always bring up Kim because it’s part of my thing. I get it. People don’t really know what else to say when I meet them," Cheban says. "Yes, we are great friends. But I only see Kim once or twice a month, and a lot of that is spent filming. People think I'm just hanging out with her all day long; [but] I have my own thing going on. I feel like the 'Jonathan Cheban is Kim Kardashian's BFF' title is so dated. That was my thing years ago. But that’s not really what I’m known for anymore."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Keeping It Real
He's also frank and open about his other Kardashian associates — even Caitlyn. "I met her on Christmas Eve, and I almost fainted!" Cheban says.

"The last time I saw her she was Bruce, a year before that; then I saw Caitlyn, who is tall and gorgeous — she’s like Jessica Lange. But I did almost faint because it was weird. I was having lunch with Kim and Kanye and Simon when the Vanity Fair cover came out. Simon was like: The cover is here! I was like, 'What the fuck!' I thought it was a model, and there she was: Caitlyn!"
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
A Food Story
"I filmed here with Kim once," Cheban says of the Greek restaurant Nerai, where we're dining for lunch. "Now it's impossible to get a reservation."

As he lists his favorite menu items (chopped Greek salad, chips narai, tuna tartare, and short rib croquettes) our photographer snaps away. A woman at a nearby table whispers, looking concerned. Cheban waves and shoots her a grin. "It's all good, we're just having lunch! Everything's going to be fine!" The women turns back to her conversation, clearly annoyed.

Cheban moans with every bite: One thing that is undeniably authentic is his passion for food. "My mom cooked, but as a teenager I was always tired of it," he says. "I always asked if we could eat out. Then I went to college at Hofstra University and started eating like, Sbarro's pizza, and suddenly I was going home to visit her in New Jersey all the time like, 'Mom! Please cook!' She'd make us Russian food, borscht and beef stroganoff, potatoes with black caviar. And then we'd have bellinis in the morning on Saturday."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Business As Usual
"I wanna do a Foodgōd reality show, like Andrew Zimmern's shows, but instead it will be like, the hot celebrity places all over the world. People want to know where celebrities sit, what they eat, when we film at restaurants like this one. People want to know what Kim did and said and ate — people love to see that stuff. I want something that will be kind of like my Snapchat, but a whole show."

I ask if he worries people might think calling himself a Foodgōd is a little egotistical. He immediately tenses up.

"I don’t answer to those people. I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care. I don’t even see them. In fact, you could call this story 'A day in the life of not seeing haters,' because haters mean nothing to me. I’m still going on a yacht while they’re at home hating me instead of going to work and doing something. I worked my butt off. People think I’m just a rich kid with money, but no. I work hard, and I can call myself whatever I want."

Later, I realize that what he said earlier reminded me of a certain other someone. "Kanye started calling me the Foodgōd when we went to Iceland," Cheban says. "That's when I was like: Okay, if Kanye does it without me asking him to, it must be alright. So that’s when I really took on the Foodgōd. Anything Kanye approves is hot."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Fanning Out
En route to the Upper East Side, Cheban gets stopped by a fan. "It’s sweet," he says afterward. "I like when people ask for pictures."

That said: Don't interrupt him when something major is happening. "The first time I ever said no was recently during a Conor McGregor fight. It was literally the last minute, and someone asked me for a photo. I was like: Are you sick?!"

(Sidenote: See that thing he's doing with his hand in the pic? Apparently that's his "new thing" — his fingers are repping the Foodgōd fork.)

I asked him if there were any celebrities he would have stanned for when he was about this girl's age. "Tom Cruise. Still. Mission Impossible Tom Cruise, God I love Tom Cruise. I saw him once and I acted like a psycho. I got so freaked out. I was so scared I didn’t get a picture with him!"
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
No Sweat
Cheban spends his afternoon visiting a circle of Upper East Side doctors, each who offers up a treatment to help him look his best. Our first stop is Dr. Marina Peredo, a dermatologist who uses a machine that works out abdominal muscles.

Cheban swears that while all he has to do is lay there, and afterward he feels like he's been doing crunches for hours.

"There's a network of top doctors that normal people don’t know about. They do special things like this. If people knew about this, they’d be here in a minute. That’s just the perks of being famous, because you get first access to special places like this."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Back At It
Movin' on up the East Side, we stop at a second appointment. Dr. Kerr uses an instrument to send vibrations down Cheban's back that will align his entire spine. "It's called Atlas bone adjustment," Cheban explains. "I walk pin straight for a week after this. No one in New York even knows about it."

As he lays down with his eyes closed, I ask Cheban what he does with his downtime. Turns out, it's a struggle for him to just chill. "I don’t know how to relax. I get so edgy and instantly I’m ready to go. I don’t like to waste any time. I try to use up every minute until I get tired, and then go home, rest for an hour, and then go. But I don’t ever actually relax."

It seems to me, though, that his form of relaxation is visiting this mini-squad of medical professionals. "I have dermatologists, Atlas bone adjusters, a doctor that does a polish technique to make your blood circulate," he says. "It heals everything. Then you have your fortune tellers and readers and healers. There's hair and eyebrows. It's a whole thing: running around New York City to get your body right."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
On The Go
The one area Cheban stays pretty quiet about is his recent breakup from model Anat Popovsky.

"I am single now," the 42-year-old confirms. "But I will get married and have kids soon. In like a year." As if on cue, an adorable puppy walks by, prompting "awws" and kiss noises from Cheban.

I ask if a dog is in his future until kids come along. "No dog! I don’t clean up shit. I play with everyone’s dogs, but I cannot imagine picking up poop."

What does that mean for his future kids? "Maybe I’ll change diapers? Actually, I don’t know."
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
Closing It Down
And before I've even had a chance to come up for air, my whirlwind day with Cheban is over. It's only been a day, but I feel like we've been walking and talking and eating and shopping for a week straight — and I'm ready to go take a nap.

Cheban, on the other hand, is heading back home to pick up his suitcase before flying to Miami for 48 hours. He'll be back just in time for the VMAs, of course.

"You're tired already?!" he admonishes me. "This is nothing. Every day in my life is even crazier than this. I'm constantly going somewhere every week. I was just in Monaco, in Spain, on a yacht in Ibiza...then filming with the Kardashians on the West Coast in between. It's non-stop!"

I ask him who he'll be attending the VMAs with. "Oh you know, just some friends," he says, looking down at his iPhone with a smile.

Two days later, I see him him on my TV screen, arriving on the red carpet with Kim and Kanye, diamonds sparkling under the light of camera flashes. Just another day in the life of Jonathan Cheban. And you know what? I ain't mad at it.
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