A quick online search of my next guest revealed pictures of actor John Contratti posing with no less than Hollywood stars Mary Tyler Moore, Danny Devito, Jenna Elfman, and Cuba Gooding Jr., just to name a few. As I dug deeper, I soon found that this actor-turned-teacher-turned-author has an impressive and wide-ranging professional background, with experience in a few Hollywood feature films, as a chef currently running a very popular cooking blog, and, perhaps in the most rewarding vocation of all, as a fourth grade school teacher.
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Q. Hello John. Thanks so much for joining us. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?
A. Hi Shana. Thanks for having me. My name is John Contratti. I’ve been a Long Island school teacher for over 20 years. With professional experience as a chef, I wanted to mix things up in the classroom, so I started cooking during my math lessons. Trying to get fractions, measurement and sequencing across to my students, cooking seemed like a great way to get their attention and put what they were learning to use. And it worked!
What I was doing soon caught on. People started writing articles about me and I was contacted by the very popular, family friendly Hallmark Channel. I heard from the channel’s cooking program Mad Hungry With Lucinda Scala Quinn, produced by Martha Stewart, and they offered me a spot on the program. After cooking up some of my favorite recipes on the show, I began writing a food blog called Cooking With Mr. C.
The blog took off bigger than I ever anticipated. Soon, I was being encouraged by Hollywood A-listers and children’s authors Henry Winkler and Julianne Moore to start writing a book. My first book, Cooking With Mr. C. tells my story of cooking with my students in the classroom. It was released in 2016 and was a quick hit with children and teachers across the country.
The success of that book led to my current follow up, Mr. C. Takes Manhattan, which is dedicated to Winkler and Moore. The entire gang from the first book is back, and on an adventure in New York, visiting famous landmarks across the city. I wrote these books to share the message that we all can be so many things in life and that there’s so much out there in the world to explore and learn about.
This is also what I’ve tried to convey to my students for all these years. There’s so much out there for kids to know about. I get ten months a year to work my magic for a new bunch of students but now, with my books, I’ve found a way to reach kids year round and anywhere in the world.
Q. That’s a fantastic philosophy on writing for children. Can you tell us what sort of feedback you’ve gotten about the books?
A. I’m very thankful for the attention I’ve received from fellow authors and children and teachers from all over the country. I was delighted to hear that other teachers are using my books to tie in with their daily lessons, and that Mr. C. Takes Manhattan pairs quite well with a social studies unit on communities.
Q. That’s really neat. What’s your biggest challenge in terms of being an author?
A. My biggest challenge, like so many others’, is keeping up with my daily schedule. With teaching in my classroom daily, book signings, food blogging, writing and being involved with numerous organizations that benefit children and theater, it makes for a very busy life. I try to write for 15 minutes every day at the very least. I know it’s not much, and certainly some days it’s more than that, but I have to keep up with it.
But I have no complaints. I get to meet so many wonderful people. Whether it’s an author, chef, or a Hollywood celebrity, I’m very thankful. It’s still very surreal to have become friends with people I’ve watched on television and gone to the movies to see while growing up!
Q. I’ll bet it is! What plans do you have for the future in terms of publishing?
A. I’m working on book number three in the Mr. C. series with an anticipated Fall 2019 release. I’ll also be in talks in getting ideas on how to develop the series into a cartoon for television. In the tradition of PBS Kids’ Arthur and The Magic School Bus, I can visualize Mr. C. and all of the kids as an animated program for kids.
Also, I’m busy putting together my first novel for adults. It’s time to write for a new audience as well.
Q. How exciting. That certainly will keep you busy for a while. Where can people keep up with you and buy your books?
A. Both of my books can be purchased at the following links on Amazon (Cooking With Mr. C. and Mr. C. Takes Manhattan) or through the publishing company, Mascot Books. On social media, you can find me as Cooking With Mr. C. on Facebook and WordPress. You can also follow me on Twitter @cookingwithmrc.
Thanks again for spending some time with us today! I wish you all the best in your future projects.
And to our readers, I hope you’ll check out John’s books and show him some love on social media by sharing this post if you liked it. Thanks so much for reading!