"Both are taking things slowly and enjoying getting to know each other," a source tells PEOPLE of Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef, an actor and interfaith leader

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Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef
Credit: BACKGRID

Sandra Lee has a new man in her life!

The lifestyle icon, 55, is currently dating actor and producer Ben Youcef, a source confirms to PEOPLE.

"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," says the source. "But both are taking things slowly and enjoying getting to know each other."

"Meeting each other during COVID was challenging," adds the source. "He's become her friend and loving confidante quickly."

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Sandra Lee attends the LuisaViaRoma for Unicef event at La Certosa di San Giacomo on July 31, 2021 in Capri, Italy.
Credit: Daniele Venturelli/Getty

Youcef, 42, is a nonprofit interfaith leader, as well as a father of two. He 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," says the source, who also noted that Youcef was raised in a political family, as his father was a longtime Algerian diplomate.

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As for the age difference between the two, the source tells PEOPLE, "Ben is 13 years her junior, and Sandra struggled with the age difference refusing to date him at first. Ben was patient and reassured her that age is just a number."

Lee and Governor Andrew Cuomo were together for 14 years before announcing their split in September 2019.

"I think she needed someone completely different from Andrew. 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," a close friend of the chef adds.

The news of Lee's new romance comes about amid the sexual harassment scandal surrounding her ex.

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

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that an independent investigation into harassment allegations against Cuomo, 63, had concluded, with the investigators finding that the governor "sexually harassed multiple women" and, in doing so, "violated federal and state law."

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In a press conference, James, 62, said the investigation found that Cuomo engaged in "unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and making inappropriate comments" with both current and former New York state employees.

She added that the actions "created a hostile work environment for women," and said that the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee who came forward with her story.

Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment but denied the allegations in a recorded message published Tuesday.

"I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," Cuomo said in the video. "I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that's not who I have ever been."