Keith Lee’s Generous Tip at a Dallas Restaurant Sparked Controversy — Here’s What Happened

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Feb. 1 2024, Published 2:43 p.m. ET

Since Keith Lee launched his viral food tour, the influencer has changed many entrepreneurs’ lives overnight. As he proved in Atlanta, Ga., in November 2023, a review from Keith can boost a company’s sales or bring unwanted attention to some of its professional practices. Just ask Atlanta’s The Real Milk & Honey.

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On Jan. 30, 2024, Keith continued his food tour, reviewing restaurants in Dallas, Texas. Those who have been following Keith’s tour know Keith typically pays for the food he buys himself and leaves the restaurant with an extra few thousand dollars in tips. However, one of the restaurants Keith visited, a food truck named Sweetly Seasoned, reportedly used Keith’s generosity for their personal gain. Here’s what to know about the restaurant’s drama.

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Keith Lee Sweetly Seasoned’s controversy explained.

While Keith is certainly no stranger to controversy at this phase in his career, the scandal during his visit to Sweetly Seasoned caused an uproar before Keith had any time to discuss the restaurant in his car.

In 2024, a TikTok user named Sherell S. Hodge, who goes by @essessachee on the platform, posted a video on her account cheering for Keith, his wife Ronni, and their family to come to Sweetly Seasoned to support her friend’s mom, Kim Verette’s business.

During the cheer, Sherell wore the restaurant’s shirt to ensure Keith knew where to find it. On Tuesday, Jan. 30, Sherell shared with her TikTok followers that Keith saw the video and, sure enough, came to the food truck to try the food for himself. In Sherell’s 9:21 account of Keith’s visit, she said he was so pleased with the service that he gave Sherell, who has since stressed she isn’t the business’s owner, $1,000 for her work in promoting the brand.

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Keith also tipped the business owner $2,000. Then, when the influencer realized Sherell’s brother was cutting hair near the food truck, he gave the barber $1,000, intending to give people near the food truck free haircuts.

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Sherell graciously accepted Keith’s donation and charged him $4,000 and his food costs. She added in her video that Keith gave Sweetly Seasoned’s owner an extra $886 so the owner would have enough money to give her customers free food for the day. However, after Keith left, Sherell said the woman who owns Sweetly Seasoned abruptly ended up serving customers free food and told Sherell to resume charging additional customers.

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Sherell claims Sweetly Seasoned’s owner never paid her brother his cut of Keith Lee’s $4,000 tip.

Sherell said the food truck’s mess worsened when the time came to pay her and her brother the $1,000. She explained that the owner told Sherell that she and her brother would have to wait until the next day for her to give them the money.

The following day, Sherell called the owner to tell her she could keep her cut but wanted to see when her brother would have his. The owner replied that she didn’t ask Sherell or her brother to help and felt his cut also belonged to her. She claimed the brother was already giving out free haircuts, which Sherell said was a lie since he was passing out flyers with his business’s prices. The owner also believed that she didn't owe him anything since she didn’t ask Sherell to help out in the first place.

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Sherell felt the business owner’s move was highly disrespectful and said the woman was intentionally “blocking” her brother’s blessings and abusing Keith’s generosity.

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“I'm big on integrity, Sherell said on TikTok, adding later, “If this man came out here and he blessed your business with his presence, then the least you can do is get out of the way of someone else’s blessings.”

Sherell’s breakdown of the Sweetly Seasoned controversy quickly went viral on TikTok and X, formerly Twitter. Many comments slammed Sweetly Seasoned’s alleged acts towards Sherell and her brother. While Sherell continued exposing the food truck, she shared in a February 2024 TikTok that she doesn’t blame Keith for the controversy.

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