An agent for Instagrammer Jonathan Cheban (aka @foodgod) is reaching out to local restaurants and asking for a lot of cash.
“Jonathan Cheban is looking to attend several restaurants in the DMV on the 1st of January and give some publicity via celebrity endorsement,” the first line of an e-mail obtained by WCP reads. It was sent from a woman named Julie to a District blogger. Cheban is Kim Kardashian’s close bud. The pair recently dressed as Sonny and Cher for Halloween.
The e-mail continues, “I see that you have a great following on Instagram and have dined all around the DC area. I was wondering if you know of any restaurants that would be interested in this opportunity. The package would include 1 still post to his Instagram @foodgod, a meet & greet with the chef or owner, 1 tweet posted to his Twitter account. Generally speaking his rate is around $3,500, but we are open to working with budget parameters.”
It’s not a surprise that having 2.2 million followers counts a career these days, but what’s troubling is that @foodgod is looking to get contracts signed before he even tries the food, which begs the question—is the pizza he’s stuffing into his face even any good?
Most of the photos Cheban posts don’t look like they’ve been professionally set-up or processed. In the photo above he’s suffering from the red-eye effect we’ve known how to fix for at least a decade. The photo below seems to be about how many wings his biceps can support rather than if the fry on the chicken is worth a damn. Why didn’t he clear the dirty dishes out of the shot? He’s got nothing on hometown boy Justin Schuble—whose Instagram handle is @DCfoodporn.
Mark Bucher of Medium Rare woke up to an e-mail Saturday morning describing the same exact offer from Cheban’s handlers. He’s planning to turn it down, politely offering to make the Instagram star a reservation and leave it at that. Though he toyed with the idea of seeing how far he could take it. “We might e-mail back and say we’d pay $10,000 if you arrive on a fire truck,” he jokes.
“I’ve been in this business since the beginning,” he says. “If you wanted to get a celebrity to come in you would offer them something like a free meal or you’d pay them to make an appearance fee. That happens. That’s legitimate.”
But that rockstar or athlete doesn’t write or otherwise share their opinion. Typically people dining at the restaurant would tweet that so-and-so is dining a few tables away and that’s enough to increase traffic to the restaurant, Bucher explains. By simply sitting down to eat, the Obamas helped raise the profile of the D.C. dining scene throughout their time in the White House.
“This is a new crop of, ‘Our pics aren’t that good and we don’t know anything about food but we have a really popular celebrity friend linked to our social media—if you want exposure let’s work something out.’ It turns the whole premise on its head.”
Bucher says it feels dirty, like a paid Yelp review.