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Sandra Lee is ENGAGED: Outgoing NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ex will wed boyfriend Ben Youcef

TV chef Sandra Lee has gotten engaged to boyfriend Ben Youcef in France as her ex Andrew Cuomo‘s career implodes over sexual harassment allegations in New York.  

Lee, 55, accepted 46 year-old Youcef’s proposal during a romantic Paris break. They were seen outside L’Avenue restaurant in Paris on Saturday night after Youcef popped the question. 

The couple visited the upmarket brasserie to enjoy a romantic dinner together. Youcef, 46, appeared to be wearing a band on his wedding finger, according to photos obtained by the New York Post.     

Lee and Youcef were spotted in the City of Love after Cuomo – the New York Governor – announced he would quit in two weeks on Tuesday, and were seen over the weekend hitting the town to celebrate their apparent engagement.

‘Ben really wanted to distract Sandra from all the news, so he whisked her away to Paris,’ an unnamed source close to Youcef told the outlet.

‘He knows how hard this has been on her and he wants to make sure she feels loved and supported.’

The source added: ‘Ben is incredibly protective of Sandra. They’re soulmates and head-over-heels in love.’

Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef were seen strolling around the streets of St. Tropez earlier this month. They are now reportedly engaged, with Lee spotted wearing her ring in Paris 

Friends have said the two are 'soulmates' and are 'head-over-heels' in love. Their engagement comes as Lee's ex Andrew Cuomo resigned as Governor of New York over sex pest claims

Friends have said the two are ‘soulmates’ and are ‘head-over-heels’ in love. Their engagement comes as Lee’s ex Andrew Cuomo resigned as Governor of New York over sex pest claims 

The couple were originally seen earlier this month in St. Tropez, in the south of France, but decided to hit up Paris after the news broke last Tuesday that Cuomo was resigning from his position as governor, effective August 24.

Just a few hours earlier, Page Six reported, Lee, the former chef and author who broke up with Cuomo in 2019, and Youcef were seen stopping by a French church in the French Riviera. 

Lee and Cuomo never got engaged during their 14 years together. The relationship is said to have ended when Cuomo reportedly cheated on her. The former Food Network star was previously married to former KB Home CEO Bruce Karatz from 2001 to 2005.

Youcef, meanwhile, is a devoted father of 5-year-old twins. He separated from his wife, California-based realtor Apryl Stephenson in 2019 and they filed for divorce in January 2020.

He is an interfaith leader, an actor and a producer who had his big break when Steven Spielberg cast him as a Palestinian member of Black September in the 2005 movie, Munich. 

Before their trip to the City of Love, Youcef, 46, and Lee, 55, explored the market in St. Tropez

Before their trip to the City of Love, Youcef, 46, and Lee, 55, explored the market in St. Tropez

Friends have said that Youcef is very protective of Lee, so he brought her to Paris after news broke that her ex, Andrew Cuomo, announced he was resigning as New York governor

Lee and Youcef passionately kissed while walking through the market in Saint-Tropez

Lee and Youcef passionately kissed while walking through the market in Saint-Tropez

News of their relationship broke earlier this month, when Lee told Page Six that she had lost 25 pounds and was dating again during a UNICEF Gala in Capri.

They are believed to have met at a charity event in Santa Monica back in March, with Youcef making the first move.

A friend told Page Six they were drawn together because they are both ‘grounded in spirituality,’ with another saying, ‘We’re just happy for her. We want Sandra to be happy, she deserves it.’

And Lee, a former QVC star who later hosted her own Food Network show, does appear to be happy, telling People, ‘I’m having the best summer of my life.’ 

Sources told the Post that friends have been rooting for them since they met in the spring, shortly after Lee moved to Malibu following her 2019 break-up with Cuomo.

‘Ben is a serious and accomplished nonprofit Interfaith leader providing the call to prayer heard all around the world,’ a source familiar with the couple told Page Six.   

Lee had dated Andrew Cuomo for 14 years until she broke up with him in 2019

Lee had dated Andrew Cuomo for 14 years until she broke up with him in 2019

People close to Lee said she struggled to get her life back over the past two years in the wake of her split with Cuomo, with one friend telling Page Six: ‘It’s very hard for Sandra to move on – she’s not done licking her wounds.

‘She’s just trying to do the best she can to keep her head above water,’ the friend said, noting that Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal ‘has all been tremendously horrible and painful for her to read about.’

‘Her heart was absolutely shattered,’ the friend said, even though it had been ‘an open secret’ that Cuomo was cheating on her during their time together.

‘When she split with Cuomo, she has never even spoken out about her time with him, she’s always kept her mouth shut,’ the unnamed friend said. ‘She’s just trying to find some kind of solace and happiness.’

‘This is the first joy Sandra has had in years,’ another unnamed friend said, ‘but it’s really not accurate to say she’s moved on.

‘She’s spent the past two years in anguish since her split from Andrew. She had to move across the country to get her life back together again.’

Lee moved to Malibu, California following the 2019 break-up, where she bought a $3.4million beach house. 

She sold her Mt. Kisko, New York home – named ‘Lily Pond’ – for $1.85 million last October. 

The star was famously seen loading a U-Haul truck with her possessions before beginning the mammoth journey to her new home on the other side of the US.  

Last Tuesday, Cuomo announced he was resigning as governor amid an attorney general's report showing that he had sexually harassed 11 women while in office

Last Tuesday, Cuomo announced he was resigning as governor amid an attorney general’s report showing that he had sexually harassed 11 women while in office

He has continued to deny the sexual harassment allegations

He has continued to deny the sexual harassment allegations

Cuomo, meanwhile, gave his two-weeks notice on August 10, just weeks after Attorney General Letitia James released a scathing report concluding that he sexually harassed 11 women while in office.

He had repeatedly denied those claims, even as he announced his resignation, saying: ‘Part of New York tough is being New York smart. New York smart tells us that this situation and moment are not about the facts. It’s not about the truth. It’s not about thoughtful analysis. It’s about how do we make the system better.’

‘Now you know me.  I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated,’ he continued. 

‘I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful, and I believe that it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society. If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand. I believe that, but when I took my oath as governor, then it changed. I became a fighter, but I became a fighter for you, and it is your best interests that I must serve.’

‘And I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And, therefore, that’s what I’ll do because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you. Because as we say, “It’s not about me. It’s about we.”’

His resignation goes into effect on August 24.


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