Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Cooking as Ministry: How Lutheran Hillside’s Celebrity Chef Mark Shoopman Touches Lives of All Ages


There is nothing more fulfilling than experiencing the instant gratification on the faces of those we serve in this ministry. And I do and feel our collective service is truly God’s hand at work,” said Mark Shoopman, Head Chef of Lutheran Hillside Village (LHV), 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 LHV. Here he not only brings joy to residents, but 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. He creates most of his own recipes and they often have a personal connection, like a Western John Wayne dish steak dish withwhiskey sauce. “My great uncle was close friends with John Wayne, so there was a family connection.”

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.

Due to remodeling at the TV station studio, he has taken his show on the road and is filming at LHV 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 a recent episode, he had two LHV residents on the air with him preparing and tasting 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. 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!”

Chef Shoopman also loves collaborating with his “culinary brigade” of team members at LHV to help them develop their skills and keep residents happy. “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.

To visit Lutheran Hillside Village and see their Life Plan Community, which offers all levels of living, call 309.689.9605.