Sandra Lee, Ming Tsai and More Celebrity Chefs Give Back in TLC Special

Kate Hahn
sandra lee, haiti
Courtesy of Sandra Lee

Celebrity chef Sandra Lee (above) recently had a life-changing experience while on a UNICEF mission to Haiti when she helped care for premature twin infants. “They were so malnourished,” Lee says of the babies. “Being with those children—immunizing them, weighing them, holding them—was pivotal.” The visit reconfirmed Lee’s commitment to UNICEF and the importance of creating nutritional well-being around the world.

Lee’s trip is featured in UNICHEF: Uniting Through Food, a one-hour special that spotlights the different ways three successful chefs give back—and how their early lives have influenced their philanthropy. The special is based on the bestselling cookbook Unichef by Hilary Gumbel, in which top international chefs share both recipes and personal stories about their roots. (All book royalties are donated to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.) Along with Lee, who is one of the founding board members of the Los Angeles chapter of UNICEF, restaurateur and Iron Chef America judge Donatella Arpaia and cooking show host Ming Tsai are also profiled. Featured charities are Family Reach, City Harvest and God’s Love We Deliver.

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Another journey early in her childhood forever connected food and philanthropy for Lee. “When I was very young, my grandmother was kind enough to give me a trip to the Holy Land. I saw, firsthand, a lot of the hunger and neglect in the world, and it cemented my conviction to do what I could [to help],” she says.

That commitment has stuck. Lee was recently named UNICEF special nutrition emissary. She’ll be going on more mission trips like the one to Haiti and working on raising awareness and funds. “I hope this special inspires people to do whatever they can to help in their communities,” Lee says. “Whatever you’re passionate about.”

UNICHEF: Uniting Through Food, Thursday, Nov. 17, 7/6c, TLC and 9/8c, Discovery Family Channel