TikTok foodie Keith Lee helps Black chef elevate her restaurant – she had to turn away customers

Abu Mubarik January 04, 2024
Keith Lee is a popular food critic. Photos: keith_lee125 | TikTok

Shonya “Chef Royce” Williams is a Chicago, IL-based restaurateur and the founder of Soul Prime. The black entrepreneur opened her restaurant on busy Halsted Street in Lincoln Park in May last year. The location of the business made it quite recognizable and Royce thought it would attract a curious clientele.

Four months after the launch, the entrepreneur got the shock of her life. Sales dipped so badly that she feared her business could collapse. She recorded only $800 in sales in September.

“That’s tragic. I don’t know what to do to improve my sales. I am so physically tired and drained every day, and I don’t have enough money to pay proper staff like managers. … This is really tough,” Royce said in a text to a loved one on September 14, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Things turned around for her the following day when TikToker Keith Lee showed up at her restaurant, although Royce did not know him. With a following of 15.5 million, the popular TikTok food critic tours the country, filming reviews of mostly Black-owned restaurants in his car.

According to Lee, he was impressed with the food served at the restaurant and asked to speak with the chef. It was during his conversation with Royce that he understood the challenge the restaurant was going through. Lee matched the sales for the day, which were $2,200.

“The most profound moment was when he took my hand and he thought enough to just pray for me,” Williams expressed to Chicago Sun-Times. “We took a picture and he started calling me his auntie.”

A day after Lee’s visit, the restaurant even had to turn customers away. The video of his visit to the restaurant also got 9 million views months later. Soul Prime’s visibility has since gone high and the business is seeing a consistent stream of income.

“The blessing that Keith Lee was to us was just absolutely amazing,” said Willie “Unique” Hearan IV, Royce’s 25-year-old nephew and employee, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “That day changed our lives forever.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 4, 2024


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