With a rare 10-out-of-10 rating for the Brown Stew Chicken on the menu of the Jamaican restaurant, Cool Runnings in Houston, Texas, star food critic on TikTok, Keith Lee, prompted what has been called “the Keith Lee Effect.”
From Martial Arts to Food Reviews
Lee is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter who began making TikTok videos in 2020. He became popular for his direct and down-to-earth way of reviewing food, which originated in his recording his search to provide the hyper-specific cravings experienced by his wife during pregnancy. He has gained some 15 million followers on the social media platform to date, and his reviews have been credited with having huge impacts on the restaurants he highlights, often enlarging their customer base and profits as well. As Cool Runnings owner Janay Henry said, “The Keith Lee effect is real.”
@keith_lee125 Cool Runnings taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic ♬ original sound – Keith Lee
Top Rating for Cool Runnings
Highlighting the Brown Stew Chicken on offer at Cool Runnings, which specializes in authentic Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine, Lee posted, “This is the best plate I had since I’ve been here,” and called the menu at the eatery, “some of the best food in Houston,” noting that Houston has a wide variety of diverse food choices available for diners.
Authentic Jamaican Cuisine
Cool Runnings Jamaican Bar & Grill in southwest Houston is owned by Janay Henry, who comes from California, and her husband, who is from Jamaica. The restaurant opened in 2009 and has many loyal customers in the Houston area. It was these customers who tagged the viral TikTok food critic on their social media accounts. Lee’s review of Cool Runnings got over two million views and over 400,000 likes after he saw an Instagram post about a theft at the restaurant.
More Than a Good Review
A still photo in the Instagram post showed the thief running from the restaurant after grabbing its donation jar. The money in the jar is donated to Kingston College, a high school in Jamaica and the alma mater of Henry’s husband, and goes toward equipment, uniforms, and other needs of the school’s marching band. According to Henry, the thief came into the restaurant in the morning wearing slippers and a bathrobe before taking the jar. She did not press charges, believing the individual “obviously needed the money more than we did.” After Lee reviewed the restaurant, he gave the staff three times the amount of the donation money that had been stolen, which was about $50 to $60. He gave them $1,000 for the donation jar and paid $500 to cover the items ordered by everyone in the restaurant and then added additional tips. “That’s some of the best food we had in Houston,” he said.
Grateful for Lee’s Attention
In an interview after Lee’s visit, Henry told Brittany Taylor of KPRC 2 that she was thankful for her customers’ recommendations that spurred Lee’s attention. She also said she was “truly grateful” for his generosity. “We didn’t expect it and we didn’t expect him to see us,” she added, saying, “We are grateful and humble.”