It’s been a summer of love for Sandra Lee.
The former girlfriend of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly engaged to actor Ben Youcef. Lee, 55, was recently photographed sporting a giant sparkler on her ring finger after a romantic last couple of weeks for the pair during a lavish getaway to Europe.
The new couple has put their love on full display during outings in Saint-Tropez before making their way to Paris. But the Food Network star’s first relationship following her 14-year stint with the embattled governor of New York reportedly dates back to early 2021.
Here’s a timeline of Lee’s whirlwind romance to the actor.
Lee reportedly met Youcef, 42, this past spring, just months after the Emmy award-winning chef moved to California after leaving the New York home she once shared with Cuomo. In a heartfelt post from December, the chef shared on Instagram that she was saying goodbye to the more than 4,100 Colonial-style Mount Kisco abode she lived in on the east coast, calling it “one of the saddest days” of her life.
“Today will be one of the saddest days of my life. Today is the day that I do the final move out from Lily Pond. I love that house and I have a personal relationship with every single room of that home. I hope the new owners take care of it as well as I did and I will love it forever. #thehousethatbuiltme,” she wrote in the post.
Lee shared the home with Gov. Cuomo during their relationship, which ended in 2019.
After settling down in California, Lee met Youcef, a nonprofit interfaith leader. A report published by People magazine this month narrowed down their first meeting to sometime in March.
“They became friends when they met at a Santa Monica restaurant in March. It’s very early but they seem to have an undeniable connection,” a source told the magazine. “But both are taking things slowly and enjoying getting to know each other.”
Although it appears Lee and Youcef, a father of two, quietly dated for months before going public with their romance, the star dropped a hint that she was in a much better place in her life personally since moving to the west coast. On July 31, the lifestyle guru made her first red carpet appearance in Italy since her breakup with Cuomo.
Lee attended the LUISAVIAROMA and UNICEF Gala in Capri, rocking a chartreuse Matičevski gown, stone-encrusted Miu Miu stilettos, a fuchsia Amanda Pearl clutch, and an antique, 30-carat ruby cocktail ring, People magazine reported.
“I’m having the best summer of my life,” the celebrity chef gushed to the outlet.
Lee was celebrating her 25th anniversary with UNICEF as a founding board member of the Los Angeles chapter. But days later, she would step out in Southeastern France with Youcef.
Stepping out together
Reports of Lee’s budding romance to Youcef first surfaced on August 4. At the time, sources told Page Six the pair had established themselves as a couple after having been spotted dining at L’Opera restaurant, the posh establishment where Jennifer Lopez recently celebrate her birthday with Ben Affleck.
The development in Lee’s love life came at quite the turbulent time for her ex Cuomo. One day before her relationship with Youcef made headlines, New York Attorney General Letitia James published the report of the investigation into his sexual harassment scandal. The politician was found to have sexually harassed multiple women.
Lee and Youcef seemingly confirmed the reports in the second week of August when the two were photographed locking lips in Saint-Tropez. The pair were seen with their arms wrapped around one another as they leaned in for a steamy makeout session. The blonde beauty wore a ruffled white top with a matching skirt. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and completed her ensemble with a large white bag, gold hoop earrings and sunglasses.
A friend of Lee’s told People magazine that Lee was attracted to Youcef’s many different qualities from her former beau of 14 years.
“I think she needed someone completely different from Andrew. It took her two years for her to even consider dating again as she wanted to be sure she could make herself happy and to heal before she brought someone in her life,” a friend of Lee told People.
On August 8, the two were spotted taking in the sights in Ramatuelle, where they visited a church and were seen photographed sitting in one of the church pews. They later strolled outdoors and dined at L’Écurie du Castellas.
Debuting the ring
Lee continued to make headlines in mid-August when she was photographed sporting a big sparkler on her ring finger. According to the New York Post, the pair have taken the next leap in their relationship by becoming engaged.
Lee’s diamond ring was on display as she stepped out in Paris. She wore a white summer dress while Youcef had on jeans, a leather jacket and a white T-shirt with a “Fear of God” logo. They also made their way to the Parisian hotspot L’Avenue.
A source close to Youcef told the New York Post: “Ben really wanted to distract Sandra from all the news, so he whisked her away to Paris. He knows how hard this has been on her and he wants to make sure she feels loved and supported.”
Youcef is Lee’s first known boyfriend since splitting from Cuomo in 2019. Although on Tuesday it was revealed that Youcef is still technically married to his estranged wife. Youcef married real estate broker, Apryl Stephenson, in 2015. They share 5-year-old twins.
Stephenson, 44, recently told the Daily Mail the pair is still legally married. “We are going through a divorce and I wish Ben and Sandra the best of luck,” Stephenson told the outlet, adding, “I have nothing more to say.”
Lee and Cuomo never got engaged during their 14 years together, although she was married previously to former KB Home CEO Bruce Karatz from 2001 until 2005.
In response to the recent reports, Page Six reported on Tuesday that Youcef and Lee, a breast cancer survivor, are taking umbrage with what they deem to be an attack on their loving relationship.
“Sandra would never be with a man who wasn’t completely dedicated to his children and focused on their well-being,” the insider said. “Both Sandra and Ben have come from past relationships with narcissists. This is their one shot at happiness together and the jealousy factor from an ex-wife is what’s behind this.”
Youcef, an Algerian actor, was discovered by director Steven Spielberg, who cast him in his 2005 movie “Munich.”
Fox News’ Julius Young contributed to this report.