Chef Jimmy Lee is not a man who likes to keep still.

Take for example his Lychee Oriental restaurant on Mitchell Street in Glasgow.

The coffee machine? That’s brand new and top-of-the-range, installed in anticipation of a busy festive season. Then there are the blue plates, not so long ago en vogue, which are now being phased out for a more contemporary design. Oh, and the decorative mirrors, they’ve recently been pepped up with new sets of LED lights.

It makes for a packed schedule, with Lee undertaking many of these redesigns and restaurant improvements himself, but a keen eye for trends driven by online inspiration is exactly what saw his career reach incredible new heights last year.

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“During Covid, with nothing to do in the house, I would sit and watch TikTok for maybe three or four hours a day,” Lee said when asked how his journey to millions of views began on the app.

“But I wasn’t just watching.

“The whole time I tried to think of a way to use it to my advantage.

“With so many bloggers visiting street food places and getting takeaways, I started thinking about creating my own TikTok-friendly place.”

A quest to cater for online foodie communities led to the opening of the first Salt & Chilli Oriental on Dumbarton Road.

With a street food take on Cantonese cuisine, food was fast, fun and full of flavour, hitting the mark with local TikTok influencers just as Lee had hoped.

And yet, he suspected there was more still to be gained from an app which had so often been dismissed as a mind-numbing Gen Z fad.

“I had ideas for creating my own content but found it really hard to find something that hadn’t been done before,” he said.

“Not many people were doing wok frying Chinese cookery, but then I came across someone who made salt and chilli chips in 60 seconds.

“I knew that I could get it down to 15, so filmed myself doing that and tagged them but didn’t think anything of it.

“That night I was going to a Kevin Bridges gig and the video must have uploaded during the show because all of a sudden, my phone would not stop buzzing with notifications.

“By the time I got home, it had reached 86,000 views.”

Within two days the same video would reach 1.2 million views, achieving viral status and kickstarting a new series of rapid-fire cookery demonstrations that would introduce the chef to a whole new global audience.

Although not everyone was impressed.

“I’m not so young these days,” Lee joked, “which is a good thing because if I was, I think I would have melted from all of the hate comments by now,

“My social media team at the time actually advised me against going on TikTok because it can be a harsh online community.

“But at this point in my life, I’m quite thick-skinned and take it all in my stride.

“One of the cheekiest responses I got was a guy who said ‘If it takes you 60 seconds to make, how come the delivery time is 60 minutes?’

“At the end of the day, it’s all a bit of fun and I just keep replying to them and having a laugh.”

Glasgow Times: TikTok has been a gamechanger for the Glasgow chefTikTok has been a gamechanger for the Glasgow chef (Image: newsquest)

Thankfully for Lee, the inevitable trolling that comes with an online platform failed to dampen his enthusiasm for creating content, and his follower count continued to grow from just 96 to well over 100,000.

With a stream of successful posts and an infectious onscreen charm, it wasn’t long before his account landed him in the dazzling world of daytime TV.

“Someone messaged me on Instagram asking if I would be interested in appearing on This Morning and at first, I really thought it was a joke.

“Two weeks later I was in the studio with just one rehearsal to go before the show went live.

“I had so many things I wanted to say, but when people like Peter Andre and Jason Donovan were walking past it was hard to concentrate.

“Even Gandalf (Ian Mackellan) was there that day.

“In the end, I threw everything I had planned out the window and just went for it.

“They had asked me to do some of my 60-second stuff, and stupid me went one further and suggested they put a timer at the bottom of the screen.”

Lee is of course no stranger to the camera, having previously starred on The Great British Menu and Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Christmas.

However, as a champion for Scots-Chinese food, the chef says a prime This Morning slot on the same week as big names including James Martin, Jamie Oliver and John Torode was a huge career milestone.

He said: “It sounds cheesy, but I’m really glad to be flying the flag for both Glasgow and Scotland.

“In the last ten years, there’s been a lack of representation for the country on national TV.

“But now there are people like me, Julie Lin from GaGa and Gary MacLean all doing regular appearances,

“I’m very proud of that.”

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Caught by the live TV bug and having already been invited back for a second This Morning appearance, Lee is hoping for more time on our screens in the new year.

In the meantime, there’s already plenty on his plate with talk of a potential cookbook and retail salt and chilli mix on the horizon.

And that’s all while working at Lychee Oriental, where he still cooks close to 100 portions of fried rice during each weekend rush.

First and foremost a chef, the kitchen will always be his “happy place”, but there’s no denying how much of his recent success is owed to that first 15-second portion of salt and chilli chips.

“There’s no way I could have expected the impact that first video would have,” he said.

“I feel like it’s given the whole Jimmy Lee brand, for lack of a better word, a new lease of life.

“Before a few people would recognise me in the street, but now all I hear is ‘you’re the 60-second salt and chilli guy!’

“2023 was the most incredible year, and that all came from TikTok.”

 Lychee Oriental is located at 59 Mitchell Street Glasgow.