Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sandra Lee, Will You Be My Valentine?

Part 2 of 2

On this Valentine's Day, let us refrain from agonizing over the Hallmark rituals, the lame displays of "romance" and the tendency to reflect on bad Valentine's past. Instead, let us turn the spotlight on another, so as to make bearable this strange and totally unnecessary holiday.

Let's look at the love life of Sandra Lee.

During Sandra Lee's bizarre and unintentionally hilarious speaking engagement at an Oklahoma hospital, she joked about trying to kill off her ex-husband with her cooking1. I have no doubt that Sandra's dishes could fell even the healthiest human, but the question in my mind is, "What's the deal with her ex-husband? Who is this guy?"

Bruce Karatz is the CEO of KB Homes. According to this article, he's been with the company for over 30 years, rising through the ranks from house attorney. He's known for unconventional marketing and promotion gimmicks (including putting a model home at the top of a department store in Paris, as well as sumo wrestling at company events). He motorcycles and went on a bike ride with Lance Armstrong and Robin Williams. Bruce was born in 1945 and has three adult children from a previous marriage. His favorite food is "pasta with fresh tomatoes".

Sandra Lee and Bruce married in 2000. In this interview, Bruce describes how he and Sandra met:

Q: How did you meet your wife, Sandra Lee, who is on the Food Network?
A: Our spokesperson for six or seven years was Tom Skerritt, the actor on "Picket Fences." He has a face everyone knows and his dad was a homebuilder. Then I saw him do an Advil commercial. I said, "Whoa, this is not our customer. This is our customer's father or grandfather, we have to get somebody younger." So our head of marketing said they had a woman who was doing performances for us in our studios. He brought her in and I met her and several months later, our paths crossed and that started the romance. And that was it. We've been married for three years.

I'm immediately skeptical of anyone who disses Tom Skerritt. Not only is he unreasonably sexy for a 73 year old, but what other actor could pull off Strawberry from Up in Smoke as well as Viper from Top Gun?

Aside from the fightin' words about Tom, what the heck is up with the dispassionate explanation of how he and Sandra met? He might as well be talking about how he ended up with a taco salad instead of a burrito.

And what kind of "performances" do you think Sandra was doing in the studios? Hmm...

They were quite the power couple while it lasted. Sandra was one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004 and hosted one of the highest-rated shows on the Food Network at the same time that Bruce was the second-highest paid CEO in Los Angeles. There are all kinds of rumors that Sandra's success was due to her connection with such a powerful man. It'll be interesting to see if she suffers professionally from their split.

Bruce talks about bringing Sandra in as a spokesperson, but was she ever a spokesperson for KB Homes? Not that I can find. However, in October 2005 KB Homes partnered with none other than:

Snap! Oh no he di'int! For KB Homes to partner with the premier (and as far as I'm concerned, only) "lifestylist" - that's got to be a "screw you" to Sandra. In this 2005 press release, Bruce twists the knife even further:

"It is a treat for KB Home to be teaming up with Martha for Halloween. She is the ultimate authority when it comes to preparing a home for any holiday, " said KB Home Chairman and CEO Bruce Karatz.
Yow! I mean, I agree with him, but yow! Heck, even Sandra Lee agrees, sort of:
... Sandra Lee is a "New York Times" best-selling author with her own show on the Food Network. And she's joining us from our New York bureau.

Congratulations to all the praise, but I know this has to be awkward to be considered the next big thing after, perhaps, Martha is not seen as much anymore.

LAURA LEE, LIFE STYLIST: Well, I think she's still seen as the expert, and by the way, Happy Easter.

WHITFIELD: Happy easter.

LEE: She's still seen of course as an expert, but there's been many experts from Betty Crocker to, you know, Julia Childs, and there's room for everybody.
Well, at least they got her last name right.

What is next for Sandra Lee? Rumor has it that she and Gordon Elliot are sharing a penthouse in Manhattan. If she really is shacked up with the producer of Semi-Homemade Cooking, then we'll be seeing her for years to come (or at least until their relationship hits the rocks).

I'm cool with that; I enjoy watching Sandra, even if it is in a I-can't-believe-she-just-did-that kind of way. Besides, I enjoy reading other opinions of Sandra almost as much as I enjoy watching her get soused on national television. For instance:

What's the most offensive TV cooking show?

There's one [in the US] by Sandra Lee. She seems to suggest that you can make good food easily, in minutes, using Cheez Whiz and chopped-up Pringles and packaged chili mix. It inspires people to have low expectations and to settle for less, and I think that's not doing God's work.

Being a chef is God's work?

Oh, yeah. What better profession? We feed people. We nuture them. We provide a real service. We're the salt of the earth. We may be the backstairs help but we do something useful, and, once in a while, transcendent and inspiring.

Who is this taking down Sandra Lee and talking about God's work? Why, none other than Anthony Bourdain:

Speaking of God's work, this blogger compares Sandra Lee slapdash approach to cooking with Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life2. This is a great analysis:

Her idea of cooking is opening a can of something processed, dumping it into a fancy dish with some “creative flourish” on top that her guests will mistake for culinary innovation. Her m├ętier is the “tablescape” where she shows you a darling, just darling, way to decorate the table. Then she goes to put on a fancy and thematically appropriate dress and she has her picture taken. Just like a tall nine year-old.

I could do without Sandra Lee.

But I cannot do without church, sadly—something in Hebrews about that.

Unfortunately for me, Sandra Lee is now behind the pulpit. She is not about feeding people good food, she is about simulating the eating experience. Sandra Lee, or rather Rick Warren, excuse me, is all about the illusion of God and theology, but done in a way that doesn’t involve knowledge, skill, love or comprehension. It is simulating the religious experience.

That's spot on. Semi-Homemade isn't about the sensual experience of cooking or even about eating itself. Sandra provides Cliff Notes for cooking. It's all style and no substance (although she doesn't even have the style part of it down most of the time).

If Semi-Homemade lacks substance and style, then why on earth would anyone watch it? The Semi-Ho Drinking Game, for one. I'll try this one out and maybe even liveblog it when I'm fully recovered from my flu.

1Sandra filed for divorce in October, but I don't know the current disposition of her marriage. Trust me, when I know, you'll be the first to know. For purposes of clarity, I will refer to Mr. Karatz as Sandra Lee's ex-husband.

2I know nothing about this book except that my fanatically religious former landlord pushed this book on me weekly for the duration of my lease.


Pandapi said...

I thought I heard her introduce her husband during her Christmas show as "Lee", but I could so easily be mistaken. I saw it a couple of times, too and really watched hard and also thought he was a much younger guy with lots of hair.

Wonder if they called in an actor.


Kimberly said...

TOO FUNNY. I was just venting about Sandra Lee. She's on right now. UGh. SHE DOESN'T MAKE ANYTHING GOOD. (except the cocktails, I give that much to her....)

Meg McG said...

Hey, you're great with the photos. You think you could do a side by side comparison of Emeril Lagasse and George W.? My husband swears they have the same face and I love to see your take on it.

Amandarama said...

Hey, I love your blog! And thanks for the link to my drinking game :)

celebchef said...

Semi-Ho drinking game, I love it!

I invented an "Emeril Live" drinking game a while back. The key one is to pound the rest of your drink when he says "I said to myself, SELF!".

Laurie said...

I really enjoy Sandra Lee. She creates quick meals that professional people can make while still putting in their 10 hour days. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that some of the desserts aren't something your nutritionist is going to recommend. And let's face it, we all enjoy our cocktails. But I don't find her meals to be all that unhealthy, especially if you constantly eat out and order food that you THINK is light. Surprise, surprise! Not always as light as you think. At least she lets you know exactly when she's adding store-bought and when she's actually adding her own ingredients. Hey, no matter what you think, it's still better than fast food.

Laurie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
foodgirl said...

I like Sandra Lee. She puts me in a good mood when I'm cooking for my own family. She's fun and happy. She seems real-- not too perky like Rachel Ray, and doesn't have her boobs hanging out in every episode like Giada. I don't care that she uses store bought foods. If you're a working mother, you need to have healthy alternatives to fast food. There are only so many hours to each day. Screw everyone who disses her. foodgirl

yourdumb said...

You know-those who want to critize her for cooking with 70% store bought food and 30% natural are just dumb. You are the same people who live off fast food and have big butts who sit in front of the TV with your whoppers and fries then complain about someone who takes the time to make something for the family rather than ordering it through an intercom. Go away. Your dumb.

Rueski said...

She is now dating the Attorney General of the State of NY, Andrew Cuomo, son the the former Governor of NY, Mario, and brother of Good Morning America new anchor, Chris.

CAMILLE said...


o2good2b said...

I dont care what Sandra cooks, it could be burro tail casserole with monkey dung. Let's rmember its not what you do but how you do it. I think she's not only got style but has such a sweet, wholesome and dare I say, very sexy personality. I own a restaurant and plan on having her as guest. Perhaps an on location shoot of her show. OK I admit it I'm in love!!!

Karen said...

I love watching Sandra Lee. She looks like real Barbie.She has overcome terrible odds. To be the parent at such a young age wow!
I am impressed. her show is a visual Delight. Some of the food network hosts are boring they make weird stuff very few people will eat.I don't care what she makes either. My son calls her "his wife" lol! I lke her

Anonymous said...

Sandra Lee Sucks....


Lynn said...

Sandra Lee is super hot! I see she is not wearing a wedding ring! Don't know who the next lucky guy is but I'm certain she represents the American Dream of a wife and that I'm pretty much positive that every guy in the world wishes they were married to her!

dennis said...

To all you Sandra Lee critics, Jealous,Jealous, Jealous...
Sandra Lee is an intelligent, talented,beautiful woman who has a sucessful Television Cooking Show. Get over yourselves...

K said...


Vellum said...

I highly doubt that all the critics are jealous. I enjoy her bio, and I love that she was able to pull herself up out of welfare on her own initiative. Kudos on that.

But some of the things she makes are just awful. I love reading quick ways to make use of simple ingredients that don't take much prep-work, and which will wow guests. But she doesn't quite do enough to pull it off, and her penchant for using angelfood cake for things it shouldn't be used for is kind of disturbing to me.

Some people just disagree with what she does because they think it comes from a lack of taste, myself included. Now, if someone can actually make really wonderful things without taking the time to create them from scratch -or- spend oodles of dollars, I'll be very interested.

Vellum said...

Ah, I nearly forgot.


This woman makes the most adorable cake pops ever. And mostly she uses pre-done ingredients. She'll do boxed cake mixes, and then mix them up with cream cheese, then shape them, then coat them in chocolate. Very simple, possibly disgusting or at least unhealthy. But the results are so adorable.

Hector said...

Mrs KB Home her husband built this http://www.akbhomesucks.com Did Bruce dump her or Sandie dump Karatz?

Traci & Doug said...

My daughter and I absolutely adore Sandra Lee and her upbeat, practical cooking. We are going to try her cookbooks this week. Colossians 2:16 states to not judge what others eat or drink. If someone is providing a message about meals leave it at that critics.

Joanna said...

Sandra is my kind of cook, so all you Sandra-haters can go and find someone else to hate. She is pretty and has great ideas and does not pretend to be MARTHA, or anyone else. Just leave her alone to do what she does best...and that is get in and out of the kitchen fast.

sam849 said...

Wow! It is amazing the amount of nutty people out there.Sandra is wonderful.I taught myself to make meals like that the whole time my children were growing up.I now have 11 grandchildren.I am teaching my grandchildren to be able to cook that way to be prepared for anything.When you have a budget, that is the only way you can do it.Fresh is hard on that budget and really not possible.We always had beautiful meals.Color has always been important to me in a meal.It has to look good to the eye first, then the mouth.Tempting.And the people out there that cannot believe the tablescapes?Believe it.Some of us do it.I have been collecting for 40 years.I have different dishes for different meals.Mexican,Spanish,Greek,Italianare the same.Asian has its own dishes that are also used for Hawaiian.Picnics have their own.A victorian tea and salad with the girls has a different set of dishes.Camping has the beautiful but non breakable.A western theme has separate dishes.Dishes with children another.Mardi Gras and Halloween their own.Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter their own.I do the same with my Christmas decorations. I could decorate at least 12 trees with my themes.It is fun and not boring like other people are.Sandra is fun and she reaches a lot of people with that fun.She gives all of us ideas on decorating our kitchens also.Its not ONLY about the food.Some have made comments about the booze.They all have alcohol on their show.So what?That does not mean she is an alcoholic like some have made a comment.Yes, I do believe the negative comments are just jealousy and they are most likely very boring people that eat out a lot and have no imagination whatsoever.She has a good entertaining speaking voice and is never boring.Thank you Sandra Lee! Sandra P. from Washington State

Rawgal said...

I love Sandra Lee! She is the epitome of the domestic goddess. She's blonde, gorgeous, fun, peppy yet works very hard and is self-made. All the more power to this successful lady who has it all. And to all the jealous haters out there, if you had half of what Sandra has, you wouldn't be sitting here dissing her.

Memphis Boot Camp said...

I am also a great fan of the Sandra Lee and their is no doubt that she is a great cook and she has much expertise in the cooking and when ever i free than i make the recipes which she taught to make.

Memphis Bootcamp

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