Sandra Lee 'Swore' She'd Never Love Again as She Kisses New Boyfriend: 'Happiness Happened'

"Thank you for making my heart feel whole again, alive again, and in love again," Sandra Lee wrote on Instagram, in a tribute to boyfriend Ben Youcef

Sandra Lee and boyfriend Ben Youcef
Photo: Sandra Lee/Instagram

Sandra Lee made it Instagram official this Valentine's Day!

The Emmy-winning celebrity chef shared the first photos to her social media page of herself and boyfriend Ben Youcef, the two smiling and kissing in a Monday gallery of romantic and intimate pictures.

Alongside the sweet snaps was an emotional caption in which Lee admitted she never anticipated she would find love again after the end of her 14-year relationship with former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"So this happened! Ben happened! Love happened! Happiness happened!" Lee, 55, wrote. "I was certain it never would again. I was shocked when it did. I swore I would never fall again, trust again, love again or open myself up again."

She went on to explain that she plans to reveal the story of how the two met on their upcoming one-year anniversary. Until then, Lee's hopeful her new relationship inspires those who, like her, thought their days in love were behind them.

"My wish for you is that no matter where you are, how old you are or what has happened, you can welcome hope back into your life again," Lee said. "This Valentines I wish you all an abundance of love, laughter, butterflies, long walks, intimate talks, chills, tender kisses, sweet moments and pure joy in the world."

"Happy Valentine's Day to all of you," she said. "And to My Sweet Ben, thank you for making my heart feel whole again, alive again, and in love again. Xo Sandy."

PEOPLE first confirmed that Lee and Youcef, 42, were dating back in August. The two first met as friends at a Santa Monica restaurant in March and have been "inseparable" since getting together, a source said in November.

"It's almost like a first love for both of them," the insider explained, adding that friends of the couple are affectionately calling them "Bendra."

Just last week, the Food Network alum told PEOPLE that she and Youcef were "very happy," and were looking forward to their first Valentine's Day together. "I think my friends have been a little jealous cause I haven't been around as much," she teased.

As she noted in her post, opening herself up to love again wasn't easy for Lee, who announced her split from Cuomo in September 2019.

"I think she needed someone completely different from Andrew," a close friend of the couple said. "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, an actor-producer, was also going through a split, separating from his wife in 2019 (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 source said.

Sandra Lee and Ben Youcef
sandra lee

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The couple celebrated the beginning of the new year together in California, counting down to midnight on New Year's Eve with a fabulous dinner at Nobu Malibu.

"They are very much looking forward to the New Year," a source close to the pair said at the time. "They are happier than ever."

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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