It’s almost impossible to turn on the television anymore and not see a promotion for a new show or product by a celebrity chef. It’s this relatively new food entertainment industry that Chef Mark Shoopman credits with people becoming more educated and more discerning about food. Add to this the focus on allergies with more people avoiding gluten or nuts and there are more opportunities than before in the food service industry. Especially when it comes to healthcare and senior living.
Chef Shoopman got his start in the hustle and bustle of the hotel and private country club scene. After attending the American Culinary Federation in Florida and becoming a certified executive chef and food and beverage director, he worked at prestigious hotels in Houston, Texas; Peoria, Illinois; and Friedrichshafen, Germany. But a change at home with the birth of his son led him to seek out other opportunities. That’s when Lutheran Hillside Village, a Lutheran Senior Services Life Plan Community in Peoria, Illinois, caught his eye and he was excited about bringing his experience to the senior living community.
“Food does so much for people. You want to promote healthy eating to fight disease and provide choices,” says Shoopman. “First thing I did was build a culinary team, I was able to bring people in and establish a true culinary brigade.”
But he didn’t stop there. With a focus on providing Lutheran Hillside Village residents at all levels of living with a true dining experience Shoopman and his team redid the menus, featuring sections devoted to healthier fare and adding daily specials. With the support of the community’s leadership, exciting new dining venues were added.
“For seniors, dining is a social event,” adds Shoopman. “I think healthcare missed that and was just providing a service. Now expectations are so much higher than before.”
Shoopman and his team are working to make sure they are exceeding those expectations, using feedback from Lutheran Hillside Village residents along the way. He admits it’s difficult to hear feedback sometimes but he knows how valuable that input is as he creates menus and new dining options for all levels of living.
“As a chef here, we really have an audience,” says Shoopman. “It’s like a big family. We’ve been able to cultivate a good staff. Being part of that and having the gratification of seeing people happy and served well-prepared food keeps my spirit alive.”
Whether he’s planning a special event, writing a seasonal menu, or designing a new venue, Chef Shoopman continues to draw on what he learned at the beginning of his career. No matter the living setting, Chef Shoopman and his team focus on one word for their inspiration: Hospitality.
“People want to feel special,” says Shoopman. “That should never stop at any age.”
To learn more about Lutheran Hillside Village, including how to set up a tour, visit the Lutheran Hillside Village web page.