Sandra Lee’s Biography: Age, Net Worth, Spouse, Parents, Siblings, Career, Books, Awards

May 22, 2024 0 Posted By Haruna Ayuba

Sandra Lee Christiansen, formerly known as Sandra Lee Waldroop, is an American television chef and author who is famous for her “Semi-Homemade” cooking concept. This concept involves using 70 percent packaged and 30 percent fresh products.

In 2012, she won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Show Host for her work on her show. Additionally, she was the partner of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and served as the de facto First Lady Of New York from 2011 to 2019, until the end of their relationship.


  • Full Name: Sandra Lee Waldroop (Christiansen)
  • Date of Birth: July 3, 1966
  • Age: 58 years old
  • Gender: Female
  • Place of Birth: Santa Monica, California, United States
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Television chef, author, entrepreneur
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm)
  • Parents: Wayne Waldroop (father), Vicky Svitak (mother)
  • Siblings: Cindy Lee Christiansen (sister)
  • Spouse: Andrew Cuomo (ex-partner, 2005-2019)
  • Children: N/A
  • Relationship Status: Single
  • Net Worth: $20 million

Early Life and Education

Sandra Lee, now 58, was born on July 3, 1966, in Santa Monica, California. She was raised by her father, Wayne Waldroop, and her mother, Vicky Svitak, alongside her sister, Cindy Lee Christiansen. Lee’s childhood was marked by financial struggles, and she often helped her mother with household chores and cooking.

At the age of two, Sandra and her younger sister Cindy were sent to live with their paternal grandmother, Lorraine Waldroop, by their mother after divorcing their father.

They later moved to Sumner, Washington with their new stepfather, taking his last name, Christiansen. Sandra took on the responsibility of raising her three younger siblings due to her mother’s illness and the absence of their fathers.

Growing up, she learned to feed her siblings frugally using food stamps and welfare payments, shaping her future approach to cooking. Sandra graduated from Onalaska High School in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

She has mentioned that her family is Catholic but was raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and at one point, they were also Seventh-day Adventist. During her junior year of college, she left to live near family in Malibu, California, and later attended a recreational course at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Personal Life

From 2001 to 2005, she was wed to then-KB Home CEO and philanthropist Bruce Karatz, and she embraced Judaism for him. In the autumn of 2005, Lee began a romance with Andrew Cuomo, who served as the 56th Governor of New York from 2011 until his resignation in August 2021.

The couple resided in a house owned by Lee in Chappaqua. On September 25, 2019, they publicly announced the end of their relationship. Lee has reportedly been in a relationship with Algerian-born Abdulwahab Benyoucef, a professional actor known as Ben Youcef, since March 2021. The couple is affectionately called “Bendra” by their friends.


During the early 1990s, Lee developed a product known as “Sandra Lee Kraft Kurtains,” a DIY home-decorating kit aimed at transforming a wire rack and spare fabric into stylish drapery. It was marketed through infomercials and cable shopping networks, and Lee was hired by QVC as on-air talent.

Within 18 months, she sold $20 million worth of merchandise and was chosen by QVC to introduce its craft and home decorating categories in the U.K. and Germany. In 1994, she launched her first DIY home improvement video series, selling over a million copies.

Her show Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee debuted on the Food Network in 2003 and ran for 15 seasons, becoming one of the top three new weekend shows on the network for its first five years.

Each episode featured entertaining and arts and crafts segments where Lee decorated the table setting and kitchen to match the theme of the meal she prepared, which she referred to as “tablescapes.”

Following the Great Recession, Lee’s second Food Network series, Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, premiered in 2009, making her the only host on the network with two cooking series running simultaneously.

Her shows have aired in 63 countries, and she has authored 27 books, including Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: Cool Kids Cooking and a memoir titled Made From Scratch.

Her book Semi-Homemade Cooking appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list, and a magazine based on her show was released in 2009.

Additionally, she hosted a series of four one-hour specials called Sandra Lee Celebrates on HGTV in late 2009. In 2012, Lee received the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary.


  • Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host (2012)
  • Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host (2013)
  • Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host (2014)

Net Worth

Sandra Lee’s net worth is estimated to be $20 million as of 2024.


Hsiao-Ching Chou, a writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, penned a review of Lee’s cookbook Semi-Homemade Cooking back in 2002, expressing critiques towards both Lee’s recipes and her “semi-homemade” approach.

Following this, Chou wrote a subsequent column where she acknowledged the unexpectedly passionate response her review garnered.

While many readers sided with Chou’s viewpoint, there were also those who supported Lee’s stance, such as one reader who emphasized the desire for convenience in cooking by stating, “Lots of people who don’t want to take the time to shred a cup of carrots want to cook a good meal.”

In a piece for Newsweek, Kurt Soller drew parallels between Lee’s influence on television cooking and that of Julia Child, despite the stark differences in their approaches. Soller highlighted how both women occupied a unique space within the culinary sphere that hadn’t been fully explored before.

Amanda Hesser, in her review of Semi-Homemade Cooking for The New York Times in 2003, critiqued Lee’s recipes for potentially costing more, requiring harder-to-find ingredients, taking longer to prepare, and ultimately tasting inferior to homemade equivalents due to their reliance on packaged ingredients.

Hesser also expressed concern that Lee’s cookbooks could foster a disdain for cooking and provide justification for serving subpar, preservative-laden meals to families.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Jessica Bennett for The New York Times and Jaya Saxena for Eater observed a newfound relevance of the “semi-homemade” concept amidst pandemic-induced scarcity.

Saxena specifically noted that Lee’s show, Semi-Homemade Cooking, could offer a fitting cooking approach during quarantine. The infamous “Kwanzaa Cake” recipe demonstrated by Lee on an episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking sparked considerable criticism.

The recipe, comprising store-bought angel food cake topped with various pre-made ingredients and seven Kwanzaa candles, drew harsh condemnation from food writer Anthony Bourdain and media outlets like the Houston Chronicle and Tulsa World, with descriptions ranging from “scary” to “ghastly”.

This segment became a subject of ridicule and mockery across platforms, including, earning a place in the annals of culinary disasters.

Denise Vivaldo, a cookbook author who claims to have ghostwritten recipes for numerous celebrity chefs, publicly admitted responsibility for the “Kwanzaa Cake” recipe in a December 2010 article for The Huffington Post. Vivaldo attributed the idea of incorporating candles to Lee, for which she apologized.

Additionally, Vivaldo criticized Lee’s taste in food. However, Lee responded by having her lawyer intervene, resulting in the removal of the post. Lee herself acknowledged the criticism of this particular recipe, attributing its creation to the demands of the Food Network at the time.

Social Media

  • Instagram: @SandraLeeOnline
  • Twitter: @SandraLee


  • Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee (2003-2015) – Host
  • Sandra’s Restaurant Remakes (2012) – Host
  • Sandra Lee’s Taverns, Lounges & Clubs (2015) – Host


  • Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee (2003)
  • Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade The Complete Cookbook (2004)
  • Semi-Homemade Gatherings (2006)
  • Semi-Homemade Desserts (2006)

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