Popular TikTok food reviewer helps struggling Black-owned food truck make $30K in 24 hours

Francis Akhalbey January 25, 2023
Keith Lee (left) helped Gary Shanks make $30,000 in 24 hours -- Left Photo via TikTok | Right Photo via @southern_taste_seafood via Instagram and Summer Watts

Prior to tasting and reviewing the food on Southern Taste Seafood’s menu, Gary Shanks told popular TikTok food reviewer Keith Lee that he was struggling to keep his business afloat. At the time, Shanks also said he was lucky if he served 5 to 10 customers. But that chance encounter with the well-known Las Vegas-based food reviewer helped turned his fortunes significantly.

According to TODAY, Lee shared a TikTok video of how he met Gary and their conversation that ensued. In the video that has since gone viral, Lee also touched on how that meeting positively changed Gary’s life. 

Gary told the news outlet that he chanced upon the chef’s food truck while he was returning home after a bike ride. Gary’s truck was said to be parked on a deserted Las Vegas street. Lee also said he had never come across the food truck.

“The foodie in me got interested immediately,” Lee said. “So I said, ‘Let me go see what they’re talking about.’ I thank God that I did.”

But when Lee made an attempt to place an order after Gary asked him what he wanted, the former noticed the eatery had a seafood-based menu. And though the TikToker is allergic to shellfish, Gary offered to fix him other platters on the menu if he agreed to return the next day. And besides offering to serve the TikToker dishes including burgers, fries and catfish, Gary said he was going to prepare the meals in different bowls and different dishes with fresh oil, TODAY reported. Lee came back the next day.

“He told me he’s just trying to survive right now. It’s very slow. He’s lucky if he gets five to 10 people in,” Lee recalled.

Lee said Gary stayed true to his word when he returned the following day, adding that the chef, who was surprised he actually returned, served him burger and fries he separately prepared with new oil. And though Gary told the popular food reviewer he wasn’t going to charge him for the food, Lee said no way.

“I went live the other day with Miss Shirley, passing out food to the less fortunate,” Lee said in reference to another TikToker. “During that live, you sent $450 worth of gifts. I took all that money and I sent it directly to his Cash App.”

Lee’s act of generosity got Gary shocked. The chef, on several occasions, also tried to return the gifts to the TikToker. But Lee told him that he did not give him the gifts by mistake. “I love moments like that ‘cause I’m so thankful and grateful from the bottom of my heart to be a vessel, and to help people like that,” Lee said.

Besides the donation, Lee also reviewed Gary’s food when he returned home. Lee took to TikTok to rate Gary’s food – giving the fries an 8.5 out of 10 score and a 9.5 out of 10 for the burger.

“Yeah, Gary,” Lee says in the video. “Delicious. It was juicy, it was cheesy … immaculate,” the TikToker adds. “Especially to be a place that don’t specialize in burgers. He makes seafood!”

Following Lee’s review, Gary started receiving an outpouring of financial support as strangers started sending him money on his Cash App, TODAY reported. “I didn’t understand what was going on or what that was about,” Gary said in reference to the donations. “You know, a lot of scams and stuff are going on so I wasn’t expecting that. I was just expecting some customers.”

Lee later shared another TikTok post where he revealed Gary had received $30,000 in 24 hours. He also said the money was not for selling food. 

“I’m overwhelmed with it, but not overwhelmed in a bad way,” Gary said in reference to the attention he got after Lee shared the video. “You know, I get so many phone calls. People just want to say hi.”

Gary said his business also picked up. The chef said he initially made between $20 and $200 daily. But his sales spiked by 900% after Lee’s initial post about his food truck.

“I’m getting out-of-towners that are probably here visiting from Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, California,” the chef said. “I’m Mr. Gary now — I’m trying to get used to that, but somehow that caught on.”

Gary also said he had just recently set up at the location when he met the popular TikToker. “That was either the first day or the second day I’ve been at the new location,” Gary said.

“It’s God-sent,” he said in reference to meeting Lee. “That’s what I’ll say.”


He isn’t on yelp so I tagged him on my IG 💕 Southern Taste Seafood taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic

♬ original sound – Keith Lee

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 26, 2023


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