Sandra Lee (chef)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Sandra Lee (cook))
Jump to: navigation, search
Sandra Lee
Sandra Lee 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Lee at the 2012 Time 100 gala
Personal details
Born Sandra Lee Christiansen
(1966-07-03) July 3, 1966 (age 48)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Domestic partner Andrew Cuomo (2005–present)
Occupation Television personality, author, celebrity chef

Sandra Lee (born Sandra Lee Christiansen[1] on July 3, 1966) is an American television chef and author. She is known for her "Semi-Homemade" cooking concept, which Lee describes as using 70 percent pre-packaged products and 30 percent fresh items.[2]

Early life[edit]

Lee and her sister Cindy lived with their paternal grandmother, Lorraine. By 1972, her parents had divorced; her mother remarried, moving them to Sumner, Washington. When Lee was 11, her mother divorced for a second time. Lee then took on the role of mother for her four younger siblings. Her responsibilities included buying groceries, preparing the meals, and handling the family finances. She graduated from Onalaska High School in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Lee attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.[3][4][5] She later attended Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada.[6]


In the early 1990s, Lee created a product called "Sandra Lee Kraft Kurtains", a home decorating tool that used a wire rack and sheets or other fabric samples to create decorative drapery. The product was sold via infomercials and cable shopping networks. Home-shopping network QVC hired her as on-air talent; in her first 18 months on the network, Lee sold $20 million worth of products.[7]

Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee premiered on the Food Network in 2003. Each episode contains an arts and crafts element, in which Lee decorates the table setting in accordance with the theme of the meal that she just prepared. She refers to these as "tablescapes". Lee's second Food Network series, Sandra's Money Saving Meals, began airing on May 10, 2009.[8] She has released 25 books, including Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: Cool Kids Cooking (October 2006) and a memoir, Made From Scratch, which was released in November 2007.[8] A magazine based on her show, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, was released in 2009.[9]

In 2012, Sandra Lee won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host for Semi-Homemade Cooking.[10]

Also in 2012, Sandra Lee is also starting a new monthly lifestyle magazine in partnership with TV Guide. She is also starring in two new shows: Sandra’s Restaurant Remakes and Sandra Lee’s Taverns, Lounges & Clubs.[11]

Critical reaction[edit]

Amanda Hesser wrote in The New York Times that Lee "...seems more intent on encouraging people to create excuses for not cooking than on encouraging them to cook wholesome simple foods", concluding that "...she has produced two books in which she encourages a dislike for cooking, and gives people an excuse for feeding themselves and their families mediocre food filled with preservatives".[12]

The Charlotte Observer summarized the reaction to Lee by saying "It would be a stretch to call Sandra Lee semi-controversial. Judging from the reaction to her Food Network show 'Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee,' she's completely controversial." Noting that Lee has both harsh critics and adoring fans, the Observer asked Lee about the criticism. She replied "I was surprised by the reaction on both sides", adding "that's how you know it's meaningful, when you get a reaction."[2]

When the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a review of Lee's cookbook Semi-Homemade Cooking that criticized both her recipe and her "Semi-Homemade" concept,[13] the review's author received a response "that was more impassioned than I anticipated", with most readers agreeing with the article. However, a number of readers disagreed with the column. One reader wrote, "Lots of people who don't want to take the time to shred a cup of carrots want to cook a good meal."[14]

Kurt Soller, writing for Newsweek, compared Lee's impact upon television cooking with that of Julia Child, noting that although Lee's show "is the furthest from Child's methods", both women "filled a niche that hasn't yet been explored".[15]

Kwanzaa Cake[edit]

Much of the criticism of Lee has coalesced around a recipe for "Kwanzaa Cake" that she demonstrated on a 2003 episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. The recipe consisted of angel food cake topped with icing, cinnamon, apple pie filling, pumpkin seeds and corn nuts (all store-bought), with seven Kwanzaa candles then inserted into the cake.[16]

Food writer Anthony Bourdain, who has been harshly critical of Lee in general, described the video clip of this segment of the show as "eye searing" and "a war crime".[17][18][19] The cake was called "scary" by the Houston Chronicle,[20] and "the most ghastly-sounding dish in Lee's culinary repertoire" by Tulsa World.[21] wrote that the video "takes pride of place in the pantheon of hilarious culinary disaster videos".[22]

Cookbook author Denise Vivaldo, who claims to have ghostwritten recipes for many celebrity chefs, wrote a humorous post in The Huffington Post in December 2010 stating that she was responsible for the recipe (though she said that the candles were Lee's idea), and apologizing for it, saying that she collaborated with Lee only for the money. She also wrote that Lee "has incredibly bad food taste".[23] A week later, the post was removed, after Lee's lawyer threatened legal action.[24]

Lee has said that this recipe is the only one of hers whose criticism she has taken to heart, and that the recipe was partly due to the Food Network dictating the show's content at the time.[24]

Personal life[edit]

From 2001 to 2005 she was married to KB Home CEO and philanthropist Bruce Karatz.[25] In fall of 2005, Lee entered a relationship with the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. The two share a house in Chappaqua, New York.[5][15]

Lee's grandmother, who was a formative influence on her culinary habits and whose tips are featured throughout her various cooking books, suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis. A component of Lee's charitable work is I Can With RA, a program which helps cooks living with the condition "shop, organize their kitchens and whip up delicious dishes in a way that causes the least discomfort."[26]


  1. ^ Payne, Patti (May 11, 2007). "Food Network star Sandra Lee peeled onions as a youth at the Puyallup Fair". Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle: American City Business Journals). Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Purvis, Kathleen (September 8, 2010). "Sandra Lee says she has no regrets". Charlotte Observer (McClatchy). Retrieved October 12, 2010. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Excerpt: 'Made From Scratch'". Good Morning America (ABC). October 31, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ Lee, Sandra (November 1, 2007). "Recipe for Success". Family Circle. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  5. ^ a b Karni, Annie (December 3, 2009). "Sandra Lee and Andrew Cuomo: A Love Story". Page Six Magazine (New York: New York Post). Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  6. ^ Wells, Gully (February 22, 2011). "Sandra Lee: The Woman in White". Vogue. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ Rochlin, Margy (September 2003). "Good-bye To All That". Gourmet (Condé Nast). 
  8. ^ a b "Sandra Lee". Hosts & Chefs. Television Food Network. 2010. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Television Star and Best-Selling Author Sandra Lee and Hoffman Media, Launches New Magazine Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Today" (Press release). Hoffman Media. February 17, 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ Moore, Frazier (June 23, 2012). "Daytime Emmys 2012 Winners Revealed". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  11. ^ Shain, Michael. "Sandra Lee expands empire". New York Post. Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  12. ^ Hesser, Amanda (October 1, 2003). "TEST KITCHEN; Homemade Or Semi? A Bake-Off". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  13. ^ Chou, Hsiao-Ching (October 23, 2002). "On Food: 'Semi-Homemade' is a halfhearted view of cooking". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle: Hearst Seattle Media). Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  14. ^ Chou, Hsiao-Ching (November 13, 2002). "On Food: Column on Sandra Lee really stirred the pot". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle: Hearst Seattle Media). Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Soller, Kurt (August 6, 2009). "Sandra Lee: The Anti-Julia". Newsweek. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ This Cake Will Make Your Eyeballs Burst Into Flames, Amelie Gillette The Onion AV Club, March 16, 2009
  17. ^ Balingit, Moriah (June 17, 2010). "Eat this, Anthony Bourdain!". McClatchy – Tribune Business News (Washington). 
  18. ^ BANCROFT, COLETTE (July 7, 2010). "RIPPING RANT ON FOOD AND RESTAURANT BUSINESS; Surly celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain spouts off about his likes, and mostly passionate dislikes, in the eminently entertaining Medium Raw.". St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). p. E.2. 
  19. ^ Bourdain, Anthony. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. Ecco. ISBN 978-0-06-171894-6. 
  20. ^ "CELEBRITY CHEFS / Foodies with groupies / These cooking-show hosts have all the right ingredients to attract viewers to their programs; [2 STAR , 0 Edition] MARY VUONG. Houston Chronicle. Houston, Tex.: May 17, 2006. pg. 1". 
  21. ^ ALLEN, CHARLOTTE (December 5, 2010). "Perhaps Democrats should taste Sandra Lee's cooking". Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.). p. G.3. 
  22. ^ Lam, Francis (December 26, 2010). "Just how offensive is Sandra Lee's crazy Kwanzaa cake?". 
  23. ^ Woman behind ‘Sandra Lee Kwanzaa Cake’ Explains Debacle, Lee Bailey's EURweb
  24. ^ a b The Ravenous and Resourceful Sandra Lee, Benjamin Wallace, New York Magazine, March 27, 2011
  25. ^ Barbaro, Michael (May 14, 2010). "A TV Cook’s Next Serving? Cuomo Family Style". Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Ability Magazine: Sandra Lee – How to Cook with Rheumatoid Arthritis" (2009)". Retrieved 2012-04-05. 

External links[edit]