There hasn’t been a famous First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt left Albany in 1932, but the new governor’s girlfriend is sitting on top of a cooking show empire. Two days after the election, it isn’t clear whether Sandra Lee will move to the governor’s mansion and officially take the role of First Lady.
Lee, 44, is a Los Angeles native who got her start hosting infomercials. According to Page Six Magazine, she met Cuomo at a party in Bridgehampton in the summer of 2006. They didn’t confirm their relationship to the press until two years later.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the governor-elect declined to comment to The Observer saying speculation about the plans for Lee at this early point in Cuomo’s transition would be premature.
Lee seems ready to move into the governor’s mansion. She participated in Cuomo’s campaign and stood beside him when he declared his candidacy in May and when he made his Election Night victory speech. Lee talked about her plans for Albany in a 2009 interview with talk show host Wendy Williams.
“And do you know what I’m going to bring when I go to the governor’s mansion? Great garnishes!” Lee said.
Lee hosts two Food Network shows that focus on blending ready-made and fresh ingredients: Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee and Sandra’s Money Saving Meals. Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee has been on the air since 2003 and is currently in its fourteenth season. A new season of Semi-Homemade Cooking is scheduled to debut in March 2011. Lee’s cooking shows film in Manhattan and Connecticut. A spokesperson for Lee told The Observer, “currently, there are no plans to shoot any of Sandra’s shows in Albany.” In addition to her television work, Lee also publishes a magazine, Sandra Lee Homemade, and has written twenty cookbooks.
Her rise to chef stardom hasn’t come without a few PR pitfalls. Internet users regularly post videos of Lee’s more awkward on-air moments and a clip of Lee making a cringeworthy “Kwanzaa Cake” reached full-on meme status with commemorative t-shirts and posters. Lee’s regular television appearances could leave the New York tabloids with plenty of fodder if she has a similarly clumsy gaffe in the next four years.
Lee’s high profile could be a political minefield, but her fame could also be an asset to Cuomo. A lavish Catskills wedding to the star chef would be a great distraction if his approval rating ever takes a serious dive.