Integrative Culinary Medicine: A Journey through the Senses

May 7, 2024
Hyesun Ahn

For the very first time, Children’s Institute hosted a course on Integrative Culinary Medicine, instructed by Dr. Desmonette Hazly. This eight-week course was less theoretical and more hands-on. It was a journey that tapped into all five senses while taking participants across international borders.

Culinary medicine is a growing, evidence-based field within medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine for improved health outcomes. It doesn’t discredit modern medicine and healthcare but rather, an approach to helping people prevent and treat disease and restoring overall well-being by viewing food and beverage as medicine.

The course explored eight different countries’ cuisines and the herbs and spices that are used in their foods. Created in collaboration with the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Integrative Nutrition Program and Harvard University’s Lifestyle Medicine’s Culinary Medicine Program, Dr. Hazly incorporated nutritional education with basic culinary arts skills to teach students how to create affordable yet healthy meals at home from ingredients found at local grocery stores

What makes this series so unique and effective is her four-prong approach:

  • Breaking barriers to health equity by meeting people where they are. This course was brought to the community of Watts by being held at Children’s Institute’s Watts campus. Underserved and under-resourced communities have historically had little access to healthcare and health literacy resources. Dr. Hazly’s goal was to tackle those disparities by bringing medical knowledge and nutritional guidance directly to the community.
  • Learning opportunities. Through the past eight weeks, the residents of Watts came hungry with an appetite to learn about methods to improve their health and well-being. Many chronic conditions over-represented in underserved communities — such as diabetes and heart disease — can be managed with the support of a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. Dr. Hazly showed participants how low-cost groceries, including herbs and spices, could help support their healing.
  • Cross-cultural experiences. This was a rare opportunity to experience different cultures. Everyone enrolled in the class experienced the tastes and cultures of other countries — from Italy to Mexico and all the way across the Pacific Ocean to Japan.
  • A sense of belonging. Each participant was welcomed, acknowledged and respected. One of Dr. Hazly’s missions is to increase health literacy and access through culturally appropriate care. Taking into consideration people’s backgrounds, cultures, bias and even distrust, she spoke and taught in ways that resonated with people.



Wendy: This course has been great because I attended it with my daughter who has autism. It’s been so good to see how joyful this class has made her feel. My daughter struggles in school with reading and writing and because of it, it’s hard for her. But here, she enjoys class and also is good at what she does, which makes her happy.

Amelia: This class is great! I enjoy cooking and I want to be a chef one day. Also, my dad used to be a cook, so it brings back memories. This class has taught me a lot about cooking and the food has been so good. I’ve been happy to come to class since day one.


About Dr. Desmonette Hazly:

Dr. Desmonette Hazly MA, MSW Ph.D., is an Integrative Health Specialist. She holds graduate degrees in social work and public policy as well as a Ph.D. in international politics and policy with a focus on community development and global health. Dr. Hazly has developed and implemented community health and wellness programs locally, nationally, and internationally and has collaborated with the Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles, International Red Cross, the United Nations and UNICEF. Dr. Hazly currently develops and implements trauma-informed, culturally inclusive health and wellness education programs based on lifestyle and mind body medicine. She has brought knowledge from prestigious institutions across the country to local communities through integrative health and wellness education for more than 15 years.

Her certifications include:

  • Culinary Medicine, Lifestyle and Mind-Body Medicine from the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • Nutrition Science, Child Nutrition from Stanford Medical School
  • Global Community Health from Yale School of Public Health
  • Medicinal Plants from Cornell University
  • Advance Culinary Medicine and Applied Nutrition from the University of Kentucky School of Medicine
  • Applied Nutrition from the University of California San Diego Medical School
  • Graduate Cross-Cultural Studies from Texas Tech University