“There is nothing more fulfilling than experiencing the instant gratification on the faces of those we serve in this ministry. And I do feel our collective service is truly God’s hand at work,” said Mark Shoopman, Head Chef of Lutheran Hillside Village, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community in Peoria, Illinois.
After many years in the international hotel, restaurant, and private club industries, Chef Shoopman found his true passion in senior living at Lutheran Hillside Village. Here he not only brings joy to residents, but he also gives back to the community in many ways.
As the star of a weekly cooking show that airs live on WMBD TV in Peoria, he helps people learn how to cook at home. Since 2011, he has prepared a different featured item each week in the live segments. “I center the recipes around many things such as seasonal, holidays, cultural, sporting events, healthy lifestyle, national food holidays, gardening, and so on. I also do some that are in tribute to my childhood and things that I was taught from my parents,” said Chef Shoopman.
Chef Mark’s Midwestern Quinoa and Sweet Corn Salad
He creates most of his own recipes, like a Western John Wayne dish steak dish with whiskey sauce. (See recipe below!) “My great uncle was close friends with John Wayne, so there was a family connection there.”
He also shares some classic and more complex recipes. “I simplify them so people can make them at home. All are restaurant quality and I try to make them cost effective for the home consumer,” said Chef Shoopman.
His dream is to one day create his own cookbook with recipes he has developed for the show.
Due to remodeling at the TV station studio, he has taken his show on the road and is filming at Lutheran Hillside Village this spring. He has enjoyed filming in his “home” kitchen and is even getting some of the residents into the kitchen to help him.
In one episode two Lutheran Hillside Village residents joined him on the air to prepare and taste Easter Bunny Berry Parfaits. “The residents get a little nervous when the cameras first begin to roll but we make them feel at ease. They do great!”
“It’s so fun having the filming here,” said Shelly Heiden, Lutheran Hillside Village Executive Director. “The residents find it really exciting.”
Chef Shoopman is also helping develop future generations of chefs through his support of the Future Chefs Program, which is a national cooking competition for 5th grade students sponsored by Sodexo and hosted by School District 150 in Peoria.
Since 2013, Chef Shoopman has served as a mentor to the students and a competition judge for the events.
“At the conclusion of the event each year I would always take the three finalists on the TV program with me and feature their winning dishes,” said Chef Shoopman. “I have enjoyed working with and mentoring the students very much!”
This year’s winning recipes featured Garlic Vegetable Mix/Jalapeno Poppers, Banavocado Takis Toast, and Fruit Salad.
Chef Shoopman also loves collaborating with his “culinary brigade” of team members at Lutheran Hillside Village to help them develop their skills and keep residents happy. For example, Ian Howell began as a line cook prepping salads at Lutheran Hillside Village 18 years ago. Under Chef Shoopman, he has grown to become Chef Howell! Read about his love of food and his role at Lutheran Hillside Village.
“It’s so fun to work with people that share the same passion for serving seniors and each other. As a manager, you really couldn’t ask for a better and more rewarding opportunity!”
He couldn’t be happier to be at Lutheran Hillside Village. “Being able to utilize my education and training in hospitality and culinary arts to enhance the happiness and health of our senior population has been a real dream come true for me,” he said.