Feb 5, 2024 - Food and Drink

Keith Lee's Dallas visit is generous — but controversial

Illustration of a knife and fork next to a plate in the shape of a grimacing emoji.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Food critic Keith Lee's recent North Texas trip was a boon for several local businesses, but riddled with drama for one of them.

Why it matters: The former MMA fighter turned traveling food influencer is known for publicizing lesser-known businesses in cities that he visits, giving workers large tips and leaving behind long lines of customers.

What happened: Lee wasn't impressed with his first two stops — Dallas' Thunderbird Pies and Terry Black's Barbecue.

Yes, but: He raved about Halal Fusionz in Farmers Branch, Hutchins BBQ, the Taste Project in Fort Worth, Absolutely Edible Cakes in Rowlett, the Sweetly Seasoned food truck in Dallas and Brunchaholics in DeSoto.

The drama: After loving Sweetly Seasoned, Lee prayed with the owner and left a $4,000 tip — $2,000 for her, $1,000 for a woman alongside her in the truck and $1,000 for a barber cutting hair nearby.

  • Sherell Hodge, the woman in the truck with the owner, later claimed that the owner refused to give her and the barber all of the money that Lee had left for them.

And: The dispute spilled over into social media, with many users saying the owner was "blocking her blessings" for withholding the tips.

  • Many people mistakenly left negative reviews for a different catering company with a similar name.
  • Lee clarified in a follow-up video that he intended for the Sweetly Seasoned owner to share the money with the other two individuals, in the amounts that he stated during his visit.
  • The owner has since apologized and offered Hodge and the barber their share of the money.

What he's saying: Lee said the food truck "has got a lot to figure out."

  • "Sometimes, it's deeper than the food, it's deeper than the marketing, it's deeper than the customer service. This is one of those cases in my opinion," he said.
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