In a surprise move following all that hype, former MMA fighter and TikTok food critic Keith Lee announced Thursday night via social media that he’s ending his trip to the Bay Area earlier than planned. The social media star cited three reasons for cutting the trip short, including that a severe allergic reaction to shellfish sent him to the hospital. The other reasons behind his abrupt departure included commentary on the safety of the Bay Area as a tourist destination and a lack of dining experiences that warranted posting about at all.
Still, for the most part, he had positive things to say about the Bay Area residents he encountered here. “The people of the Bay were absolutely amazing,” Lee says, “and I’ll never forget the hospitality and the love that y’all showed me.”
True to his policy of transparency, Lee broke down why he and his family decided to return home after posting just three video reviews of Bay Area restaurants — the most important being that he ended up in the hospital after his food was cross-contaminated with shellfish, to which he’s highly allergic. Lee didn’t name the restaurant where the incident happened but says his family asked an employee if they cook meat on the same grill as seafood. The restaurant worker said yes, but that they would clean the grill before cooking Lee’s family’s order. “The second I ate it,” Lee says, “I blew up like a balloon.” In the video, Lee guessed that the grill wasn’t cleaned, nor were the utensils cleaned or swapped out.
Unfortunately, the other reasons the amateur food critic provides for leaving the Bay Area “prematurely” echo some of the criticisms the region has experienced over the past year or so. “I truly don’t believe the Bay is a place for tourists right now,” Lee says. “The people in the Bay are just focused on surviving.” The number of unhoused people living in tents and cars was “shocking to say the least,” Lee says. And in a not-so-subtle criticism of local government, Lee says he wished the city was stepping in to help. “I don’t know if they have, I don’t know if they’ve been trying,” Lee says. “But from the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like there was much city interference.”
Next, Lee shares that during his time in the Bay Area, he filmed more than six videos that he doesn’t feel comfortable posting. “I’ve always been big on honesty, I’ve always been big on transparency,” Lee says, “but I’ve never been big on completely tearing down anybody and I feel like those videos are doing that.” Since Lee pays out-of-pocket (as opposed to accepting free food, which is common for social media influencers) for all of the food he eats during his TikTok reviews, shooting a handful of videos he’s unable to post also factored into his decision to leave sooner than planned, Lee shares.
The social media phenom’s visit was highly anticipated by his more than 15 million followers, given the “Keith Lee effect” which oftentimes sees many of his followers visiting restaurants in droves following positive reviews. Lee posted his first review on Tuesday, and in follow-up visits from local media, both chef Dione Green and Mama T’s say they received a bump in customer traffic after each post. In an informal last review, Lee adds that one highlight of the trip that he didn’t get a chance to post was a visit to Luxurious Cuisine in Oakland, calling out the amazing customer service and food, leaving a $2,000 tip at the end of the meal. In total, Lee posted just three video reviews of restaurants he visited while in the Bay Area.