Food And Drinks

11 questions for the Orlando writer, playwright, and food critic Joseph Hayes


You can’t deny that people are great. Who doesn’t enjoy sitting down with good friends and asking them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? That’s what 11 questions are about. I’m going to introduce some friends I look up to and people in the community I’ve always wanted to meet. As a bonus, I’ve updated some of the questions!


Ben Hoyer, a past function on 11 questionssuggested i should feature Joseph. Always open to new people doing something cool in Orlando. I said, “Of course!” and Ben was right, Hayes was a great candidate for the series; He has been instrumental in shaping the creative and culinary scene in Orlando for the past 20 years. Think about it for a minute, this guy has long been pouring into the central Florida community. What a great legacy (and it’s not even finished yet!). I like how experimental he is with his work and not afraid to tackle a new idea or process. I hope this rubs off on me.

Who is your role model?

People who chose not to wait for someone else’s approval.

Favorite book, album, musician?

The brilliantly talented guitarist Ralph Towner. The jazz trio La Lucha, who continue to take on my performance challenges with joy and telepathy. Miles, Mingus, Mark Hollis, Joni, Björk, Lisa Hannigan, the big Niko case, Paul Simon, give it up for Tierney Tough and The Pauses … practically every jazz luminary who lives and works in Orlando when I start to call me I would only forget a few. I could go on looking for texture in sounds and words.

What do you like to eat most in Orlando?

Writing about Orlando, and restaurants specifically, since 1997, my list of the best places to eat and order has filled magazines, newspapers, travel guides, and online pubs for 24 years. Sorry, this is the most defined thing I can get.

If you could mate two different species of animals, which would they be?

Oh, I’m sure there is a little comment about politicians and naked mole rats, but that would be redundant.

Who in your life has inspired you?

The composer / musician David Amram, whom I have known since the early 1970s, started playing jazz while his friend Jack Kerouac read poetry and now plays over 60 concerts a year at 90. My partner Jennifer, who repeatedly teaches me the joy of saying “yes”. The writer Douglas Coupland, who told me “You should write plays” and got me on my way.

What are you proud of

Since moving to Orlando, I have been able to build an artistic career that includes local actors, musicians, creative artists and, I can only say, thinkers. Everyone who works on one of my projects is paid and hopefully they will be positively challenged by the experience. And there are people in this town who know my name, which is nice. I’ve managed to run multiple multi-event projects that involved staging 13 self-produced performances in one year (13in13) and presenting six Pompeii-themed dinners amid a damn pandemic. And since 2002 I’ve had 45 productions and readings of my work around the world. Being ADD helps …

What rejuvenates you

A new project, a new idea, meeting a new person who triggers a different kind of work. To say, “Oh what the hell, let’s see if that works.”

Is there something that you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to do or that you would like to achieve in the future?

I don’t know what do you have

How do you reconcile your personal and professional life?

After being very good at jobs that I hated for a lifetime, I decided to do what I love to do and make some money out of it. So my professional life consists of talking to people, asking these questions over and over and getting the answer: “Nobody has asked me this before” and “Why am I telling you this?” and then write it down; and my personal life is focused on telling stories. Just really.

How do you hope to be remembered?

As someone who has helped. The only advice I give people in general is to be bold. Some people actually take this to heart and tell me.

If you chose another career, which one would it be?

I would open a stage / club / restaurant based on the Jazz Club Novecento 900 in Venice, open during the week for jazz and world music performances and theater on the weekend. So actually not that different from what I’m already doing, just with a lot more money. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. Every day is different.

Click here See more of Brian Carlson’s “11 Questions” columns.


Janet Smith