Anyone who has seen Sandra Lee radiating sunny confidence and competence on her show and in her cookbooks will be surprised by the darkness and struggles of her early life. As she recounts in Made from Scratch (Meredith), being abandoned by her mother when she was 2 was just the beginning.
MORE: Was turning 40 a factor in writing this memoir?
Lee: Absolutely. Everybody said, "Are you sure you’re ready for this?" I’m 41. It doesn’t embarrass me what’s in the book. If it were not for my first 40 years, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m going to do from now on. Everybody who watches the show sees one side of me, a bubbly, Stepford-type personality, but if they knew how much tragedy there was to overcome, they’d know that if I could do that, they can do anything.
MORE: Your mother and stepfather beat you, among other bad experiences. What was it like to delve into your past?
Lee: Having to relive what happened was palpable. The years living with my grandmother were a joy to remember, but when I got to the part where she passes, I had to stop writing and go to bed for two days.
MORE: What is your life like now?
Lee: I do work a lot — I’ve written 13 cookbooks and do the show, but I’ve had a new sweetie, [New York State Attorney General] Andrew Cuomo, for two years, and I spend time with his three children. His parents come and stay with us on weekends. It’s a big family. And they’re great cooks.
MORE: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Lee: Don’t stress over the little stuff. If it doesn’t change the big picture and it won’t matter next month, then it doesn’t matter.
Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2007.