By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If you ask Camille Orrichio Loccisano what’s cooking, she’ll have an answer ready for you. Something’s always cooking in her kitchen! And if she’s not doing the cooking herself, she’s inspiring someone else to enjoy creating meals.
Orrichio Loccisano is site manager of the culinary department at the Child School Legacy High on Roosevelt Island, where she instructs learning-disabled students on the art of cooking.
“Cooking can help kids in so many ways,” she said. “It helps them to be creative. It teaches them how to follow directions. It gives them a chance to learn problem-solving. They learn teamwork. And it gives them a sense of satisfaction,” she said.
Orrichio Loccisano, 47, has written a book in which she recounts events in her life along with recipes for some of her favorite dishes.
“It’s not just another cookbook. It’s a series of stories and each story involves food,” she said.
The book has attracted interest in both the publishing and food industries, she said. She is now at work on a second book.
In the past, she helped her relatives establish two restaurants, Casa Calamari in Bath Beach and Rocco’s Calamari in Dyker Heights.
She was born Camille Orrichio. Loccisano was her married name. She is divorced, but decided to keep the name.
Orrichio Loccisano was born and raised in Bay Ridge and now calls Dyker Heights home. Cooking was always part of family life for her, as well as her sister Lucy and her brother Anthony.
“My mom and her sisters were phenomenal cooks. And my father was a cook when he was in the Army. I grew up around it. We were a food family,” she said.
Young Camille loved going into the kitchen and finding a new way to make an old dish.
“I would take a traditional recipe and add an ingredient to make it my own. That’s the fun of cooking. You experiment. You add a little more ginger to a pear cake and create something delicious,” she said.
She has advice for those who are too intimidated at the thought of cooking for a dinner party.
“Don’t be afraid. Just follow the recipe and practice beforehand. One thing I would say is never make a recipe for the first time when you have company coming. Make something you are familiar with and have made before,” she said.
She is a graduate of Saint Patrick’s School and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) High School.
“It was a true sisterhood at OLPH. I’m still friendly with many of the girls I went to school with there,” she said.
She then attended the New York Institute of Technology.
“But I quickly lost interest,” she recalled.
She got a job on Wall Street, working as an accountant in the securities department at Bear Stearns.
“I never liked sitting at a desk and working with numbers. On Wall Street, the pay was good; it did not feed my creativity,” she said. “But I was very social in the office. I was always cooking and bringing things into the office. Food allows you to connect with people.”
There was a time, however, when she didn’t want to go into the kitchen. Orrichio Loccisano had three sons — Francesco, known as Frankie, Nicholas and Christopher. When Frankie was 14, a freshman at Xaverian High School, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He died on Sept. 14, 2007, at the age of 17.
“After Frankie died, I shut down. I didn’t want to cook,” she said. “After a while, I went back into the kitchen and made chicken francese. It was one of Frankie’s favorite dishes. It reminded me of all the great conversations we had.”
During the course of his chemotherapy treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Frankie Loccisano had conversations with state Sen. Marty Golden and then-U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella about getting more government funding for research into cures for pediatric cancers. He also tried to help kids he saw in the cancer ward. In tribute to her son, Orrichio Loccisano started the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a charity that helps families of children with cancer.
Orrichio Loccisano is also active in the autistic community. Her son Nicholas is autistic. She founded the support group Single Parents of Autistic Children and has worked with the New York City Department of Education, conducting workshops for parents.