MD Local: Dr. Rashaan Ali-Jones
Written by Diane Krieger | Photographed by Siri Berting
At just 4 feet, 11 inches, Rashaan Ali-Jones, MD, defies the tough-guy image of the stereotypical surgeon. Her petite stature notwithstanding, she shoulders jumbo-sized responsibilities at Torrance Memorial, where Dr. Ali-Jones, 46, heads the general surgery department and co-directs the Hunt Cancer Institute breast surgery program.
She performs about 650 surgeries a year, mostly on diseases of the breast—usually while perched on a standing stool. “I have to bring the table up to everyone else’s comfortable height,” Dr. Ali-Jones explains, smiling.
Dr. Ali-Jones knew she wanted to be a surgeon from the age of 8—inspired by parents who were health-conscious vegetarians long before that was fashionable. A straight-A student laser-focused on getting into an Ivy League college, she graduated from Leuzinger High in Lawndale, attended Princeton and received her medical and surgical training at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Interestingly, when Dr. Ali-Jones isn’t wearing latex gloves, her skilled surgeon’s hands are often dipped in flour. “The kitchen is my happy place,” she says. “Honestly, I think if the whole surgery thing hadn’t worked out, I would be in the culinary arts.”
She started experimenting with her own recipes at age 8. By high school she was earning $20 in weekly allowance to prepare vegetarian dinners for her parents and two sisters. “My parents worked really late hours,” she explains. Her mom was a cosmetics buyer working at Del Amo mall; her dad sold cars at Scott Robinson Honda.
Growing up in multicultural Lawndale, Ali-Jones experimented with Vietnamese and Mexican ingredients from the local stores. North African influences came later, thanks to her husband’s family roots in Morocco.
She and Omar Raiss met at a medical student mixer in New York City just days before 9/11. He later quit medical school to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Then in 2013, Raiss became a stay-at-home dad to nurture their two high-achieving kids. Amina, 14, is 300 pages into writing her first novel. Ali, 9, is a serious ballet student with dreams of attending Juilliard.
Dr. Ali-Jones calls her tight-knit family “a sweet little tribe of people who love each other so much. It’s like a dream.” A dream she loves to feed. On Saturdays and Sundays, after a brisk 3- to 5-mile run along the Esplanade, the doctor will prepare “a very fancy family breakfast.” Dinner is likewise meticulously planned to delight the palate.
Around midday she takes a break from the kitchen. Curled in a backyard hammock, she indulges her third abiding passion: books. “I probably read one a week,” she says, “mostly fiction but also cookbooks.”
Lately Dr. Ali-Jones has segued into writing. Her first cookbook is coming together nicely. Part memoir, part recipe collection, part food-based philosophy, it includes a chapter titled “Baking Through It”—exploring the baker’s art as “a place of solace.”
The recipes are all her own inventions, often involving quirky combinations—like miso paste in her caramel sauce or chickpea flour in her brownies. (For her signature sour cream-topped cheesecake, go to TorranceMemorial.org/cheesecakewithatang). Though no longer a vegetarian, Dr. Ali-Jones festoons her dishes with flowers, fruits and garden-fresh greens.
“I make whatever tickles my fancy,” she says, “whatever comes to me. And I’m always thinking about what I’m going to make next.”
Name: Rashaan Ali-Jones
Hometown: Redondo Beach, California
Instant Pot: Thumbs down
Bread Machine: Thumbs down
Sous Vide: Thumbs up—“It goes totally against principle to brown something after it has been cooked,” she says, “but I’m a convert.”
Passions: Culinary arts, reading, running at the beach
Recent Good Reads:
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
- Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
- Aftershocks: A Memoir by Nadia Owusu
Rashaan Ali-Jones, MD, is a general and breast surgery specialist and practices at the Association of South Bay Surgeons. She can be reached at 310-373-6864.