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Christmas is served

Toronto, December 23, 2013

By Geoff Koehler

Executive Chef Jean Luc Touchard and Food and Service Director Mikhail Terbij share a laugh in the Marketeria. On Christmas Day, the duo and their team will be serving up Christmas cheer – and dinner – to staff on behalf of St. Michael’s.
Executive Chef Jean Luc Touchard and Food and Service Director Mikhail Terbij share a laugh in the Marketeria. On Christmas Day, the duo and their team will be serving up Christmas cheer – and dinner – to staff on behalf of St. Michael’s. (Photo by Katie Cooper, Medical Media Centre)

On Christmas morning, many St. Michael’s staff will be woken up by excited children who are ready to open their presents. Others may opt to sleep in and enjoy a moment of peace before the rush of the holiday and family commitments kick in.

But Jean Luc Touchard’s alarm clock will be waking him up at 4:30 a.m. and hitting snooze is not an option.

Just as he has for eight of the last 12 years, the hospital’s executive chef will make his way to “the office” on Dec. 25. Touchard will be joined in the Marketeria by a baker’s dozen of hospitality staff who will prepare and serve the staff Christmas meal for 700 people.

Touchard, like a culinary Santa Claus, brings chocolates or candy treats for everyone on his team.

“St. Michael’s is a very special place,” said Touchard. “Staff sacrifice their own holiday to care for patients and so this is how the hospital says thank you – with a free meal.”

Mikhail Terbij, who oversees the Marketeria and Catering, has worked every Christmas since 2009. Usually managing behind the scenes, Terbij will step in on Christmas Day to serve food or work at the cash register.

Terbij fondly remembers a Christmas past, when a patient’s loved one came to the Marketeria after unsuccessfully searching outside for a restaurant that was open.

“She was so surprised that we were open and couldn’t believe that we were serving a turkey dinner,” recalled Terbij. “She left and came back with 11 people, including a patient. We put some tables together and they had family dinner. She later told me it was a very special moment that made their day.”

Patients and visitors can purchase the Christmas meal for $16. Staff wearing their ID badge can claim their free, full-course holiday meal between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 25. Night shift employees are not forgotten. The Marketeria team prepares and shares 500 cookies throughout in-patient units for those working after the kitchen closes.

“The staff who are not with their families need to feel taken care of because we’re all a family at St. Michael’s,” said Terbij. “And we want patients and their families to get a taste of home. It’s all part of hospitality’s mission.”

So whatever clatter springs you out of bed on Christmas morning, know that nearly 1,000 staff will be serving our patients on Christmas Day. And Terbij and Touchard’s team will see to it that our St. Michael’s family is well fed.

Merry Christmas!

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.