Meriden Chef Takes Home Two Top Connecticut Culinary Awards

The Village at Kensington Place’s Fine Dining Program Recognized  with Connecticut Assisted Living Association (CALA) Chef Challenge Wins

Most people know Bristol’s Mike Rock as the former owner and chef of the popular Stir the Pot restaurant in East Windsor. Today, Rock is known among residents and associates at The Village at Kensington Place, a Benchmark assisted living and Mind & Memory Care community, for creating fine dining with flair as their director of dining services. To them, it came as no surprise when, last week, Rock took home two of Connecticut’s top culinary awards for the senior living industry.

On March 23, Rock was awarded the Connecticut Assisted Living Association’s (CALA) Chef Challenge Meat and People’s Choice awards, beating out chefs from other senior living communities throughout the state. His winning dish, Pistachio Crusted Lamp Chop with Mint Chimichurri, Robuchon Potatoes and Roasted Root Vegetables combined international flavors with classic French techniques he learned while attending Johnson & Wales University, widely considered to be one of the best culinary schools in the country.

This is Rock’s second time winning the CALA Chef Challenge award. In 2017, he won first place in the Chef Challenge for chicken while working at Kensington’s Place sister community, The Village at Buckland Court in South Windsor.

“I really enjoy creating food for holidays, events and other celebrations that bring our entire community together,” said Rock who joined Kensington Place last year. “Fulfillment for me is being able to put together dishes for our residents that are special and creative, and seeing the delight on their faces.”

Recently, Rock created a standout feast for Chinese New Year. He even led the community’s residents in making homemade dog treats for the community’s furry residents.

Cooking is in Rock’s blood. He first learned how to read by experimenting with cookbook recipes together with his grandfather, a skilled Italian cook with Philadelphia roots. From that time on, there was no question what he wanted to do.

“Mike is incredibly passionate about not only providing our residents with refined versions of the classic dishes they love but also creating new flavors he knows they will enjoy,” said Jody Abel, executive director of The Village at Kensington Place. “We are so incredibly proud of his accomplishments and for recognizing what we all have known for so long.”

About Benchmark Senior Living

Benchmark is New England’s largest senior living provider with 64 independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care communities and over 5,000 dedicated associates providing compassionate care and outstanding experiences throughout the Northeast. The Waltham, Mass.-based company was founded over 25 years ago by Tom Grape with the purpose of Transforming Lives Through Human Connection. Since then, Benchmark has continued to set the industry standard, having won over a hundred local, regional and national awards for its care, programs and as a top workplace. Benchmark has been named one of the Top Places to Work for 15 straight years in The Boston Globe’s annual employee-based survey and received repeated recognition in FORTUNE’s Best Workplaces for Aging Services list. For more information, visit