What is the Keith Lee effect? Meet the former fighter reinventing food reviewing on TikTok

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jul 23, 2023 at 09:15 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Have you ever been scrolling on your FYP and stumbled across a video of a man sat in his car or his kitchen, moments away from noshing down on some delectable food, who looks straight into the camera and declares: “I got it, let’s try it, and rate it one through ten.” If you’re ever been lucky enough to have the algorithm serve you one of these joyous videos, you my friend, are one lucky sod.

Keith Lee is, in my humble opinion, the go-to eating show TikToker out there at the moment—and I have a feeling his 13.4 million followers would agree. I can’t remember exactly when it was that I first found Lee, but I remember enjoying his content so much more than other creators on the platform. He was immediately likeable, and more importantly, he was eating some of the yummiest food I think I’ve ever seen.

Lee might’ve once been a professional fighter, but his area of expertise now lies in helping people to enjoy a myriad of different tastes and flavours. He’s perfected the realistic review, half the time it feels as though you could be sitting there in the car with him.

Lee’s biggest niche lies in the fact that he uses his platform to consistently promote and provide representation for smaller local restaurants, all of which are in dire need of proper advertisement and recognition. Moreover, the content creator and food lover never gives a place a high rating unless they truly deserve it. He never lies, and so in turn, his reviews always feel authentic.

@keith_lee125

#stitch with @josethetacoguy La Chilanga Mexican Food taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee
@keith_lee125

#stith with @Damian Ocampo Doanburi Premium Sushi And Catering taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

This man has helped so many local restaurants stay afloat that TikTok users have even gone as far as to coin his influence the “Keith Lee effect.” He samples every kind of food out there, and always has a detailed reflective perspective to offer his viewers.

Eating content has always flourished online, from videos on older more traditional platforms like YouTube and Instagram, to vlogs on slightly newer babies like TikTok and Snapchat—we’re all just massive foodies at heart. Viewers have consistently enjoyed the entire spectrum of food consumption, whether it be engorging mukbangs pioneered by South Korean creators and Nikocado Avocado or more mundane ‘what I eat in a day’ videos.

One of my other personal favourites is creator Jaz who originated the iconic “hey guys, I got food.” Casual dinner vids go a long way in a gen Zer’s eyes.

@justjazzzyidk

I love @olivegarden #higuysigotfood

♬ original sound - jaz

In a lot of ways, TikTok creators have shaped and influenced the kinds of eating content that thrive presently. Yes, YouTube might still reign supreme when it comes to those pesky millennials who love a longer form eating show. But when it comes to us gen Zers—the infamously attention deficit generation—we just can’t seem to get enough of short quick tidbit eating clips like the ones Lee creates. Being able to virtually sample 80,000 different cuisines is so much more satisfying than having to labour over one 20-minute noodle video.

@keith_lee125

Smoke & Fire Blueberry Chicken Sandwich taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

But while millions might try to capture the essence of a perfect eating video, no one seems to be able to do it quite like Lee. His down-to-earth nature, family-style cameos, and love for Wingstop, makes him the perfect neighbourhood pal. Plus, you can tell he really enjoys his food—every mouthful is an experience, and you’re just waiting to see what his verdict is going to be.

In an interview with Glamour, a group of creators explained why they thought TikTok had reshaped the way people approached food content online. One particular creator, Larnelle Lewies, queried as to whether it might be because “people are more open to trying out new dishes and interesting food combinations because of those that are ‘trending’.” And it definitely makes sense. Big foodie creators will see a meal or restaurant trending on their FYP and automatically jump at the chance to cash some clicks.

Lee definitely participates in trending eating moments, but the thing that’s helped his grow such a loyal online viewership is definitely the way in which he approaches platforming local restaurants and then takes us along for the journey with him—not to mention the fact he repeatedly expresses his thanks to his audience in testimonial videos, that always helps keep us on side.

@keith_lee125

💕The “Keith Lee Effect” would not be possible without God first and foremost and y’all, i truly appreciate it all. Thank You 💕 God Is Amazing 🙏🏽 #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m now going to spend the rest of my day googling blueberry fried chicken sandwiches and birria tacos. Happy days.

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