Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef Are 'Happier Than Ever' as They Ring in 2022 Together: Source

PEOPLE first confirmed that Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef were dating back in August

Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef
Photo: sandra lee

Sandra Lee and boyfriend Ben Youcef rang in 2022 with good food and even better company.

The couple celebrated the beginning of the new year together in California, counting down to midnight on Friday night at Nobu Malibu.

"They are very much looking forward to the New Year," a source close to the pair tells PEOPLE exclusively of the lifestyle icon and her actor-producer beau. "They are happier than ever."

PEOPLE first confirmed that Lee, 55, and Youcef, 42, were dating back in August.

"They became friends when they met at a Santa Monica restaurant in March. It's very early but they seem to have an undeniable connection," a source said at the time. "He's become her friend and loving confidante quickly."

Sandra Lee, Ben Youcef
Sandra Lee, Ben Youcef. Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Michael Bezjian/WireImage

The Food Network star was previously with former Governor Andrew Cuomo for 14 years, the two announcing their split in September 2019.

"I think she needed someone completely different from Andrew," a close friend of the cook previously told PEOPLE. "It took her two years for her to even consider dating again as she wanted to be sure she could make herself happy and to heal before she brought someone in her life."

Youcef, meanwhile, separated from his wife in 2019, before they later filed for divorce in January 2020.

"He seems to be a good match as he has a deep understanding of all of Sandra's worlds from her professional life to her dedicated focus on family and commitment to philanthropy," the insider said.

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Back in November, Lee and Youef were photographed in New York City, sharing a smooch in Central Park.

"They're inseparable," a source told PEOPLE. "It's almost like a first love for both of them."

Friends of the couple are affectionately calling them "Bendra," added the insider.

As for rumors that the two are engaged, a source in August told PEOPLE that "they are really enjoying each other, but it is just rumors for now."

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