It was with a great sense of sadness that I learned that my good friend Stockton Briggle died March 22 after a long battle with cancer (full obituary here). While he was best known for his work as a director and producer of stage productions that starred the likes of Rock Hudson and Dick Van Dyke, Stockton was also an avid cook and teacher who toured the United States giving demonstrations on how to cook well and look good doing it.
Stockton was married to Mark Tillman-Briggle of Hot Springs, and this connection to the Spa City saw him do regular cooking classes around town, which is how I first met him through my mother-in-law. The demonstration that day was all about good foods to make in hot weather, and everything was so good that I rushed home after the class to attempt my favorite recipe of the day, a playful spin on gazpacho that added cool melon to the tomato base to create something entirely new. Such innovative versions of classic recipes were Stockton’s specialty, and his constant patter and wonderful stories made for some of the most interesting and entertaining cooking classes I’ve ever attended.
From the coq au vin he made at his French Farmhouse Cooking demonstration to the mango lassi he served while making Indian food, Stockton approached his ingredients and recipes with a simple philosophy: that anyone could make delicious food, no matter your training, experience, or personal taste. He de-mystified the complex and elevated the simple, which to me are the hallmarks of a great cook.
Apart from his skills in the kitchen, Stockton was a good friend. When I first started writing about food, he was a regular source of encouragement and advice, and that’s something that I’ll always love him for. I last spoke with him in early March, just a few weeks before his death, to wish him a happy 79th birthday. He thanked me for the wish and then described his birthday feast: kale salad, rice balls with Gruyere, white fish piccata, hanger steak with arugula, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and warm chocolate cookies with maple syrup ice cream, adding that it was all “Good stuff.” He lived life to the fullest, and I count myself lucky to have known him — because like that last birthday feast, the man was a warm and sensitive soul who was always ready to share what thought was “good stuff.” Rest in peace, Stockton, you were loved, and you are missed.