By Brian Carlson (Website)


You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? With that in mind, local photographer Brian Carlson, has introduced an ongoing photo and Q&A series called 11 Questions where he interviews Orlandoans he looks up to as well as people within the community that he’s always wanted to get to know.

John Rife is an evangelist. Give him a soap box and he will shout his gospel to the masses (in a very kindhearted way). His is a gospel about community, food, and consumer education. John recently launched East End Market, Orlando’s one-stop-shop for locally-sourced food and goods. Through East End, John hopes to change the way we consume food and build a more dynamic local economy. Photographing and speaking with John was a true pleasure. He really believes in Orlando and has great plans for how to make it a vibrant, thriving city.

Who do you look up to?

I look up to my Dad a ton.  He’s a fascinating guy and totally a self-made man.  He’s an adventurer and an entrepreneur at heart.  He grew up in the Florida Keys and the pioneering spirit of that place has served him well.  From hunting big game in Africa to developing huge real estate projects, he’s always cool-headed and honorable, no matter how high the stakes.

Do you have a favorite book?

My favorite book is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  I love allegorical fiction, like song lyrics, they have many interpretations.  I have read it many times and each time it scratches the itch in my soul that drew me to pick it up again.  A simple and wonderful book.

Favorite place to eat in Orlando?

My go-to is the Grinderman sandwich at Stardust Cafe in Audubon Park.  It is a spicy chicken pesto sandwich with a side salad drizzled in balsamic.  Depending on where I sit, I can people watch, movie watch, fly under the radar or chat it up with the hipsters and neighbors of the district.

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

I’d interbreed an otter and Labrador retriever.  It would be an uber-retriever, record breaking tennis ball retrieval speeds on land and sea and family friendly to boot.

What gives you inspiration?

I find people discovering what their calling is and then having the courage to pursue it deeply inspiring.  Carving a new path is so much more challenging than following the status quo, yet it is the trailblazers that have given society ideas, products, and services that make life more vibrant and interesting.

If you had a chance to live in a different decade, what decade would you choose?

I’d love to have lived in the first decade of the 1800’s.  This was the era of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark expedition and during a lull of aggression following the Revolutionary War and before outbreak of the war of 1812.  It was roughly 25 years or so from the signing of the Declaration of Independence and many of our country’s forefathers were still shaping our destiny.  It was a laissez-faire business climate and I love the idea of testing my mettle in that rough and tumble time.

What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs.  My great, great, grandfather James Elliott was a famous riverboat captain, iron foundry owner and train car manufacturer.  There is an old picture of him where he is about my age and we look strikingly similar.  Looking in his face I can imagine the kind of trials and challenges he must have faced being an industrialist and an entrepreneur in his era.  The spirit of perseverance and dogged pursuit of progress that he must have exuded and that my grandfather and father both modeled give me the audacity to pioneer my own career.

What’s your favorite thing about Orlando?

My favorite thing about Orlando is the cultural renaissance we are going through right now.  Home grown businesses are really thriving.  Seeing consumers forego franchises in favor of the more unique mom-and-pop businesses springing up around town gives me great hope.  It is still a little like searching for salamanders under rocks but the search is worth the effort.

What rejuvenates you?

I need alone time.  My wife Kamrin  calls it my “cave time”.  So much of my day is in the public realm and spent interacting with people.  When the day is over, kids are in bed, I’ve spent time catching up with Kam and our dog Murphy has been walked, I want to unplug from engaging with people and just follow my bliss.  It could be a night following the rabbit down the hole that is Wikipedia, or watching documentary films, playing video games, whatever…..the common denominator is that it’s “my” time and what ever tickles my fancy is the order of the day.

What are your other interests?

Oh jeeze.  Almost too many interests to list, but one folks wouldn’t expect is I’m a closet nerd. I like Marvel comic books, fantasy fiction, video games, and other decidedly geeky stuff.  My current obsession is a digital card game called Hearthstone put out by Blizzard Entertainment.  I am so jazzed to be a part of the closed beta test of this game and I just can’t get enough.

Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?

My slogan is, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, row out to meet it”.  I don’t plan too far out into the future.  I just keep my eyes on the horizon and a ship always seems to pull into port about the time I get comfortable with status quo. Then I start paddling like a mad man.  Thankfully there are no ships on the horizon at present so I’ve pulled my oars in and will focus on East End for a while.  That being said I am grateful for the variety of ships that have pulled into my port over the years offering interesting opportunities and adventures and will always be watchful for the next.



Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of

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