It was a little after 5 p.m. when we pulled into the covered parking lot of a Comfort Inn. I was there to meet Jonathan Cheban, a.k.a. Foodgod, a.k.a. professional Kim Kardashian-clinger, and watch as he unveiled a $1,000 cookie, supposedly the world’s most expensive. A moderately priced chain hotel was not what I had in mind for a D-list celeb who operates under the belief that the greatest things in life are prohibitively pricey, but there I was, disoriented by my own expectations.
I looked up the address ahead of time but was still taken aback when I arrived—Cheban’s publicist gave the location but no business name. (The invite promised a “legendary debut... from 5-7 p.m. in Syosset, Long Island.”) I entered the building and asked a sleepy employee if I was in the right place. “You’re going downstairs. Hit ‘B’ for basement,” he responded.
Inside a small, converted conference room were 12 over-dressed Long Island moms and their rambunctious children. The walls were lined with white, sheer curtains and floor lights. There were a few white two-top tables adorned with those gold trays every member of Vanderpump Rules keeps on their couch as practical decor, along with decadent, heavy cookies cut in half, placed haphazardly on top of them and other various stands.
There were no plates, knives, or napkins. Cheban was nowhere in sight.
I jumped at the chance to see an overpriced confection and Jonathan Cheban because, well, who wouldn’t? The man is fascinating, if not aspirational—the rudest celebrity to have made a name for himself simply by being friends with one. For the past few years, he’s tried to rebrand himself as the guy who loves food, but with absurd qualifiers: He loves to eat, but the Foodgod does not cook. He dines out for every meal, 365 days of the year. To feast like Cheban is a dream. And I wanted to try it.
Two bartenders with matching, Kardashian-straight, middle-parted jet black hair ran the open bar, which was stocked with different wines (like CupCake brand Pinot Grigio, the $10 bottle) and placed in the back of the room. They were inexplicably dressed in head-to-toe steampunk looks: tan corsets, fingerless gloves that extend to the elbow, black top hats and goggles adorning the brim. I asked for a water bottle and one of them hit me with a forceful, “That’s what it’s there for.” When I returned for a glass of wine, she gave me an unsmiling “sure” and a hefty pour. Each additional interaction was terse at best, which felt fitting for Cheban’s brand—they were good-looking, curt, strangely outfitted, and knew how to delight their audience.
A few of the moms, noticing I was alone and extremely on time, approached to ask how I knew Sofia. I didn’t. I’d come to find they were referring to Sofia Demetriou, the founder and owner of Duchess Cookies, the woman who created the cookie in question and whose event I was attending. One mom told me she’d seen Sofia make her ginormous cake-like treats before and the secret is that she uses an ice cream scoop. I’m still not sure that fully explains how the hefty peanut-butter banana monstrosity I shared with a woman named Debbie wasn’t under-baked.
It was clear that Cheban was going to take his sweet time, so I joined another table of moms. One told me she’d been in and out of the celebrity blogging game for the better part of a decade and was shocked she didn’t recognize anyone in the room. She also sold me on her upcoming endeavor, a blog where people rate and share relationship horror stories. A group of stylish younger women approached us and, surely judging by my age and not my unfortunate haircut, wanted to know if I was an Instagram influencer, the first time anyone has ever asked. It proceeded to happen several more times before the party’s allotted two hours were up. I told one woman I was there for Jezebel, and she immediately pulled up the site’s Instagram and asked to take a photo with me now that she knew “one of the writers!” I obliged. I was two Chardonnays deep.
I’ve never journeyed deep into Long Island before, and certainly not as far as Syosset. I’ve had no reason or interest to do so. The Hamptons strike me as a boring, exclusive place for the well-to-do, and I don’t know what else is out there, so the trip itself could have been a treat. But it wasn’t: packed to the gills with early commuters, women who held tiny, 2018 Gucci bags and complained about “the city” and described a friend as having “unfortunately curly hair.” When they got off at the same stop as me, I was confident they were coming along for the ride by their choice in handbag alone. They were not.
Upon arrival, I began to brainstorm something to say to Cheban if I had the opportunity to speak to him. I decided I’d only ask one question to keep the mood light: What would the Foodgod’s last meal be? Surely, he will die someday and has pondered death before. I certainly have. I already knew what his answer would be: Nobu. Nobu. Nobu!
Roughly an hour into the two-hour affair, Cheban showed up. He was taller than I expected, but only famous-person tall—5'10", tops. Before he even entered the room, he was swarmed by moms, influencers, and children with mouths blue from Cookie Monster and unicorn-themed treats. It took a full 15 minutes before he made it through the hallway, onto the other side of the photo-ready Duchess Cookies logo to the event space.
I took a picture of him and texted it to my best friend, “Does Cheban have eyebrows?” She consulted her group text—the jury is still out.
As soon as the Foodgod entered, the room’s music volume raised, and I started to wonder if we’d been standing in silence the entire time. (The soundtrack was a medley of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” Miley Cyrus’s new song with Mark Ronson, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” and that Chainsmokers song that sounds like Twenty One Pilots and name-drops the indie band Beach House, called, unsurprisingly, “Beach House”).
Cheban made a beeline for the $1,000 cookie, which had been sitting in a plexiglass box, unattended and largely unnoticed for 20 minutes or so. He glided past me with the elegance and pride of someone who knew all 20 people in attendance were there for him, and uttered a low, familiar, deep yet nasal, “Wow,” upon viewing the pastry. Sofia described the cookie’s ingredients and presentation to him: a red velvet cookie filled with ruby chocolate ganache, topped with ruby chocolate, covered in 24 karat gold, decorated with ruby pink chocolate roses, a sculpted chocolate shoe and sitting on a bed of freshwater pearls atop a Baccarat crystal dish. He reacted with another “Wow.” Then he left through a back entrance and vanished into the night. It was 6:34 p.m.
A woman turned to tell me she met the Foodgod “like, 15 years ago” at an upscale restaurant in the Hamptons called 75 Main, “where everyone goes.” She added, “He doesn’t remember.”
Rumors began to circulate that Cheban went to “freshen up” and would soon return to the floor to chat with fans and, ideally, sit on the pristine, plastic-y white throne that had been reserved for him the entirety of the evening and that he had yet to acknowledge.
Cheban never returned but photos of him at a Daily Mail party surfaced hours later. Around 6:45 p.m., Sofia’s dad began manning the bar, the steampunk bartenders all but a distant dream. He poured everyone a final glass, and we departed.
The next morning, I checked Cheban’s Instagram to find a much more animated Foodgod shouting about the $1,000 cookie, “the most expensive cookie in the world!!!!!!” over Sofia’s detailed description of her creation. He was more passionate and considerably louder than the man I saw for 20 minutes the night before. He confirmed to his 3 million followers—this was so Foodgod.
On the way out, Cheban passed me and I got a whiff of his scent. It was completely unidentifiable, the way I imagine boy bands and oil barons smell: a cologne that is present but not overwhelming and certainly too expensive for my nostrils to register. He smelled subtle, and rich, the opposite of a cookie covered in gold.