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Sandra Lee Dishes on Her Thrilling New Cooking Show, ‘Dinner Budget Showdown’

After a nine-year hiatus, she's back with a Roku series premiering May 3!

Sandra Lee has long been one of the food world’s brightest stars. On programs like Semi-Homemade Cooking and Money Saving Meals, and in her many best-selling cookbooks, she showed home chefs everywhere how to make simple yet delicious meals without breaking the bank, and introduced countless clever hacks.

Now, after a nine-year hiatus following her battle with breast cancer, the award-winning chef is back on TV and better than ever. Her new show, Dinner Budget Showdown, will be streaming for free on the Roku Channel on May 3, and it couldn’t be more timely.

In this age of inflation and skyrocketing grocery prices, a show centered on making what she calls “the best, least expensive dish” is sure to provide much inspiration for upcoming trips to the supermarket.

Can’t wait for the show? Neither can we! Read on for the scoop on Dinner Budget Showdown, straight from Sandra Lee herself.

The premise of Dinner Budget Showdown

In each of the six episodes of Dinner Budget Showdown, a guest chef creates an expensive meal, which the competing home cooks then use as inspiration for their own meals, created on a budget. The winner gets free groceries for a year, so the stakes are high.

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Lee’s co-host for the show is chef Jordan Andino. “He’s fun, he’s energetic, he’s smart and he’s a great chef,” Lee, who was most recently part of QVC’s Q50 “Age of Possibility” initiative, enthuses. Lee is equally excited about the lineup of guest chefs, which features Carla Hall, Joe SastoStuart O’Keeffe, Mei Lin, Claudia Sandoval and Derrell Smith.

As Lee puts it, “Every episode has three new contestants and a new guest judge. It’s always rotating. It’s always interesting. There’s always an incredible dish. There’s always a fantastic theme and there are better, more usable takeaways in this food competition than in any other show.”

Sandra Lee and her cohost, Jordan Andino
Sandra Lee and her Dinner Budget Showdown co-host, Jordan AndinoRoku

Where Dinner Budget Showdown fits with her other shows

Cooking shows and how audiences watch them have changed considerably since Lee was last on TV. While she admits that she misses a classic “stand-and-stir” (a noncompetitive, educational cooking program in the mode of her earlier shows) she sees Dinner Budget Showdown as a mix of cooking-competition addictiveness and stand-and-stir smarts.

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Lee explains, “It’s the culmination of everything that I learned with the Semi-Homemade and Money Saving Meals brands that I created. If you combine those and put competition behind it, you have Dinner Budget Showdown.”

Sandra Lee with her Emmy
Sandra Lee poses with the Emmy she won for Semi-Homemade CookingRoku

How she feels about the contestants

“The job of the contestant is to make the best, least expensive dish with the guest chef’s dish as inspiration,” Lee says. “It can’t be exactly the same, so you learn a lot of ways to get great flavor and healthy meals on the table in minutes. It’s a whole meal, and some of these things come in at under $10 a plate. It’s really incredible what the contestants are able to do.”

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Lee isn’t just the show’s host, she’s also executive producer, and was instrumental in choosing the contestants. “We wanted people who wanted to have fun and have a lot to share and are knowledgeable and able to communicate great ideas and hacks, and they have to be comfortable on camera,” she says. “We spend our time with them and really get to know them and their stories, and we fall in love with them.”

“The hardest part of doing a show like this is that I want everybody to win,” Lee says, but as with any competition show, she and her fellow judges have to make some challenging choices. “It’s a very stressful environment,” she says. “Things catch on fire. People cut themselves with knives. They burn things out of nowhere, when they were at the top of their game. It’s riveting.”

Sandra Lee with Jordan Andino and Carla Hall in 'Dinner Budget Showdown'
Sandra Lee with her Dinner Budget Showdown co-host, Jordan Andino, and guest judge Carla HallRoku

Something for everyone

“My goal in my career has always been to do something meaningful and teach people things,” says Lee, and when it comes to Dinner Budget Showdown, “I think my favorite part of the show is being in a position where I can offer a program that everyone will like, whether you’re 9 years old or 90 years old, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you love to cook from scratch or cook from the grocery store, whether you like elite dishes or are on a budget and need to save money. It literally checks every single box.”

Lee teases that while you’ll have to watch the show to see all the great cooking tips she, her fellow pros and the contestants have to offer, “If you want hacks, this is the show for you.”

We can’t wait to see all the budget-friendly yet restaurant-quality meals the contestants come up with, and we’re happy to have Sandra Lee back on the screen!

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