With 15 seasons over eight years, “Semi-Homemade” received mixed reviews. Fans loved Lee’s girl-next-door vibe and kitsch cooking style, while critics argued her approach was more “fake cooking” and lazy. In 2003, Amanda Hesser (who later co-created Food52) likened Lee to the downsides of the American food industry, convincing people to take a lazier approach to cooking rather than encouraging them to take the time to prepare healthy meals. Hesser attacked everything from the titles and cost of Lee’s recipes to his very philosophy that semi-homemade is faster than cooking from scratch.
Viewers of the show also took note of Lee’s questionable recipes. One of the biggest scandals to ever hit the Food Network was Lee’s Kwanzaa cake, which was an inauthentic (and very strange) dish for the holidays. In the comments of a YouTube clip of the episode, one viewer compared her to a kindergartener making macaroni art, while a Reddit the user said she was “convinced she had no working taste buds”. Other netizens, however, enjoyed the show, including the original poster which read, “I wish [Food Network] would have a new show in the vein of Semi-Homemade.” They continued, “Most people take shortcuts (doctor a can mix or canned soup) when cooking, and it was great to have tips on how to breed the purchased ingredient.” They’re not the only fans of this view.