Sandra Lee has experienced a season of love.
According to reports, actor Ben Youcef is engaged to the ex-girlfriend of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Following a romantic previous few weeks for the couple during a costly European vacation, Lee, 55, was recently seen with a massive sparkler on her ring finger.
Before traveling to Paris, the new couple enjoyed several outings in Saint-Tropez, displaying their love in all its glory. But, the Food Network star’s first relationship after a 14-year marriage to the disgraced governor of New York apparently began in early 2021.
Below is a timeline of Lee and the actor’s brief courtship.
Lee allegedly met Youcef, 42, just months after leaving the New York apartment where she had lived with Cuomo and moved to California this past spring.
In December, the chef wrote a moving Instagram post describing leaving her more than 4,100-square-foot Mount Kisco home on the east coast as “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.
Gov. Cuomo and Lee lived together in the house until their relationship ended in 2019.
After settling in California, Lee met Youcef, a nonprofit interfaith leader. This month’s report published by People magazine narrowed down their first meeting to sometime in March.
“They became friends 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.”
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Lee hinted that she was in a much better place in her personal life since relocating to the west coast, even though it appears that she and Youcef, a father of two, privately dated for months before going public with their romance.
The lifestyle expert appeared on the red carpet for the first time in Italy on July 31 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.
As a founding member of the Los Angeles chapter’s board of directors, Lee was commemorating her 25 years of service to UNICEF. But days later, she would step out in Southeastern France with Youcef.
Stepping Out Together
On August 4, the first rumors of Lee and Youcef’s developing romance appeared. According to insiders at the time, the couple had solidified their relationship after being seen dining together at the upscale restaurant L’Opera, where Jennifer Lopez just celebrated her birthday with Ben Affleck.
The change in Lee’s romantic situation occurred during a very stressful period for her ex-boyfriend Cuomo.
The findings of the investigation into his se*ual harassment scandal was released by New York Attorney General Letitia James one day before her relationship with Youcef made headlines. It was discovered that the lawmaker had harassed several women se*ually.
When they were captured kissing in Saint-Tropez during the second week of August, Lee and Youcef appeared to corroborate the rumors.
The couple was seen leaning in for a passionate makeout session with their arms around one another. The stunning blonde donned a white blouse with frills and a matching skirt.
She accessorized with a big white bag, gold hoops earrings, and sunglasses before pulling her hair back into a ponytail.
According to a friend of Lee’s who worked for People magazine, Lee was drawn to Youcef for a variety of reasons compared to her ex-boyfriend 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.
The two were sighted on August 8 exploring Ramatuelle, where they stopped by a church and were captured on camera sitting in a seat. Later, they went for a stroll outside and had dinner at L’Écurie du Castellas.
Debuting The Ring
Midway through August, when Lee was pictured with a large sparkler on her ring finger, she made headlines once more.
The couple reportedly took their romance to the next level by getting engaged, according to the New York Post.
Lee stepped out in Paris wearing her diamond ring on display. Youcef had on trousers, a leather jacket, and a white T-shirt with a “Fear of God” insignia, while she was dressed in a white summer dress. They also traveled to L’Avenue, a popular destination in Paris.
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.”
Since her breakup with Cuomo in 2019, Youcef is Lee’s first known relationship. Although it was made known on Tuesday that Youcef is still legally wed to his ex-wife.
Youcef wed Apryl Stephenson, a real estate broker, in 2015. Twins aged 5 that they share.
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.”
Despite her prior marriage to former KB Home CEO Bruce Karatz, who she was married to from 2001 to 2005, Lee and Cuomo never got engaged during their 14 years of dating.
Page Six stated on Tuesday that Youcef and Lee, a breast cancer survivor, are upset about the new reports because they see them as an attack on their committed union.
Steven Spielberg spotted Algerian actor Youcef and hired him for his 2005 film “Munich.”
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