Keith Lee’s TikTok food reviews have become the latest craze on social media thanks to the former MMA fighter’s blunt and honest takes on eateries around the country. However, Lee’s latest trip to Atlanta has completely changed the landscape of the city’s restaurant scene due to him shining a light on some interesting rules and policies in the local food scene.
Last month, the 27-year-old shared several food reviews of restaurants around the ATL, and while he got to eat from some spots, others left him with nothing to grub on due to specific rules that out-of-towners are not familiar with. As usual, Lee kept his reviews as honest as possible, resulting in social media discussions on the Atlanta food scene that many locals say has the city in shambles.
Some of those conversations have criticized various restaurants for their preference of keeping up with their social media presence rather than their service and food. Lee’s reviews have even brought negativity into his own life as people have threatened his and his family’s safety, as he stated in one of his latest TikTok videos.
So what happened while Keith Lee went to Atlanta, and why is the city reeling from these reviews?
Who is Keith Lee?
Keith Lee is a former mixed martial arts fighter turned food critic born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, with his family about 10 years ago so that he and his brother, Kevin Lee, could pursue careers in professional fighting. Between 2017 and 2019, Lee put up an impressive 5-3 record with companies such as TKO, Final Fight Championship, and more before landing in Bellator, one of the biggest fighting promotions in the world.
With Bellator, Lee posted a 2-2 record before losing his contract in 2021, which forced him to go back to the drawing board and find something more sustainable for himself and his family. He had his last professional fight in 2022 at A1 Combat 5, but as he told MMA Fighting in January of this year, “I felt very expendable after I lost my contract with Bellator. I promised myself I’m going to build something that no one can take away from me, and that’s me being me. Completely separate from anything else I do. It’s just me and you can’t take away who I am.”
How did Keith Lee build his TikTok following?
While he was still a professional fighter in 2020, Lee used TikTok to create various family and cooking-inspired content to alleviate his social anxiety and prepare him for post-fight interviews, which he said made him nervous. Some of those videos caught the attention of the popular YouTube channel People vs. Food, and a collaboration with them led to a rise in Lee’s already growing stock on social media.
From there, Lee and his wife turned to food-centric content by posting one review a day, and by 2021, the training wheels were off as the former pro fighter focused on smaller businesses that requested he try and rate their food in locations such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and Chicago. Lee became so popular for his honest reviews that he started sending family members to get food so he could have the same experience as regular people and avoid special treatment from restaurants.