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Nepo Bestie of the Week: Jonathan ‘Foodgod’ Cheban vs. a Bottle of BBQ Sauce

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

Welcome back to Nepo Baby of the Week, where I typically analyze the latest cooking mishap or wedding fiasco involving the relative(s) of a famous person. This week, however, we’re taking a bit of detour from our usual premise, as a new celebrity lawsuit demands our immediate attention.

The subject of this perplexing court drama is not a nepo baby. But he’s very familiar with them, having basically built a public brand through his high-profile friendships with the most illustrious family on the planet and other nepo babies in that orbit. I’m talking about none other than famous “nepo bestie” Jonathan Cheban, regrettably known as Foodgod, who’s currently waging an expensive legal battle against a bottle of barbeque sauce.

Earlier this week, TMZ reported that Cheban, notable BFF of Kim Kardashian, is suing the Korean BBQ sauce company San-J—and its bottle manufacturer—after a bottle “inexplicably exploded” in his hand in 2020, causing “significant blood loss” and “nerve damage.”

Kim Kardashian and Jonathan Cheban seen out in Manhattan on  May 15, 2017 in New York City.

Our first-ever Nepo Bestie of the Week steps out with his much more famous bestie, Kim.

Robert Kamau

According to this befuddling suit, the former publicist-turned-food influencer never opened the bottle. Yet some mysterious combination of factors (Chemicals? Temperature? Hand pressure? A ghost?) caused the glass to burst as he took it out of the refrigerator, where Cheban claims it was only stored for a few hours. Court documents also attribute “stress fractures” in the bottle to its explosion, which I guess means that it wasn’t “inexplicable?” Go figure!

The sustained injuries from the accident—a photo he submitted shows four stitches in his right hand—have allegedly prohibited his “ability to use his hand in his social media posts, in his advertisements, and in his ability to sponsor various food items.” The wildest part of this claim, though, is that Cheban is suing San-J and its associated manufacturers for a whopping $20 million, arguing that the effects of this injury have supposedly taken money out of his pockets.

And as you can probably guess, no one on the internet is taking him or this magically imploding bottle seriously, suggesting that the alleged accident was NBD or that the businessman must be broke.

Who knows what really went down in Cheban’s kitchen that day. But unfortunately, this alleged incident couldn’t have happened to a funnier person.

If you aren’t entrenched in the Kadashian universe, Cheban was basically Kim Kardashian’s sidekick in the early seasons of their E! show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. He would pop up occasionally to calm her nerves, give her vague advice, and laugh way too hard at her and her sisters’ jokes. He also appeared in a few spin-offs, including Kourtney and Kim Take New York. (Does anyone remember that episode where Kim’s ex-husband Kris Humpries pressed him about his sexuality for an entire episode? I’ve never cheered harder for a divorce!)

Anyway, toward the tail end of KUWTK, he basically vanished, naturally inciting rumors that his and Kim K.’s friendship had dissolved. Although they've been seen together on various Halloweens, and he popped up on the last season of Hulu’s The Kardashians. That said, insiders say that was never any beef, and they both got really busy.

This sounds about right, given that Cheban decided to build a food empire seemingly out of nowhere over the past five years. However, he maintains in interviews that food has long been a passion of his, born from his experiences dining at lavish restaurants—which may be the least intimate, most corporate-sounding connection a person can have to food. Likewise, he legally changed his name to Foodgod, which he sometimes spells with a macron, in 2019; he has been posting photos of himself with ridiculously sized, deeply un-appetizing foods ever since. Cheban also starred in a Discovery+ show, produced by Kris Jenner, that seems to have suffered the same one-season fate as Brooklyn Beckham’s show.

In general, he comes off more as a bored, rich guy who orders expensive, outrageous meals because he can and takes selfies with them. You can’t convince me that someone who eagerly dives into a chicken wing covered in gold dust has a respectable palette! It’s also hard to persuade people that you’re a genuine food lover when condiments are literally attacking you in your kitchen. (JK, JK.)

Listen. I’m not here to call total bullshit on Cheban’s claims—at least publicly. I was not a witness to this alleged incident, nor am I a chemist. (Note, though, that my personal experience with BBQ sauce and a cursory Google search leads me to believe that glass bottles typically don’t just burst.)

Additionally, if Cheban is actually dealing with chronic pain, that has to suck. However, the details of this alleged accident are indisputably bonkers. And it isn’t lost on me—or the internet—that this man who has no real culinary experience and seemingly got a cooking show based on his Kardashian clout would suffer such an absurd, food-related injury. That said, I can’t wait to hear the bottle’s side of the story.

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