IST Graduate Builds a Brand as a Food Influencer in Pittsburgh

IST Graduate Builds a Brand as a Food Influencer in Pittsburgh

As a food influencer, Goodstein has sampled everything from pizza, pierogis, sandwiches, steaks, beer, bourbon, to a beef jerky bouquet. He also demonstrates his culinary skills, sharing tips and tricks through the recipes he follows or makes in his own kitchen which often includes locally sourced ingredients.

“Over the years, I have acquired some skills in the kitchen, and I have acquired more skills related to how to eat than skills to cook things,” he said.

The fun and playful personality that Goodstein embodies during his online presence, starting with the name of his blog: “Alex Eats Too Much”.

“I wanted something that could stand out, but would also be sustainable if I ever moved away from Pittsburgh,” he said. “I settled on ‘Alex Eats Too Much’ because it’s funny and memorable. When I tell people my acceptances on Instagram, they start laughing. And people know who I am because of it.”

Brand building

While Goodstein initially launched his Instagram as a platform dedicated to sharing photos of meals he enjoyed (which, according to Goodstein, was suggested by his friends who were upset by the number of food photos in his profile feed), “Alex Eats Too Much” to a brand. Today, Goodstein is a popular presence on the Pittsburgh dining scene, receiving invitations to sample and promote meals from new restaurants, updated menus, or special events.

“It became a 50/50 combination of trying some things for the first time in restaurants that I’ve never had a chance to go to or cook something at home and try a new recipe,” Goodstein said. “But there is a lot of discovery when new venues are opening or letting others know when great dining events are happening. It has grown tremendously into a brand split.”

Goodstein remembers the first time his Instagram became more than just a place to document his food experiences.

“A little over a year after doing this, I got a letter from a PR firm inviting me to come to an event and try the food,” Goodstein said. “My first thought was ‘Of course I’ll go.’ But my other thought was ‘Am I really famous enough to do this?’ That was my first real turning point.”

A year later, Goodstein looked at his calendar and made a surprising discovery: He was invited to promote a restaurant menu change or attend the opening of a new restaurant almost every night in one week.

“I realized that I no longer need to accept every invitation or try every piece of food that is asked of me, but I can actually think about how I would like to control my brand a little bit rather than just trying everything and spreading everything.”

While how to become a successful food influencer is not part of the curriculum at IST, Goodstein said his IST Foundation has directly influenced the growth of his blog—particularly in the development of his website.

“At IST, I learned about the product life cycle and human-computer interaction,” he said. “It thinks about the aesthetics, what people want to interact with and what people want to see, and how to create an effective website. Every time I make a change or add features to my website, I look at it from a perspective that I developed at IST.”

Goodstein’s education at IST has played an important role in his full-time career at PNC, where he has worked since graduating from Penn State. He started as a Business Systems Analyst before moving into product ownership.

“The IST program prepared me for both career paths,” he said. “In my first role, I needed to understand how to integrate systems, write requirements, project life cycles, and how to work with databases. Having that basic knowledge of how to understand what someone is asking and being able to pass it on to a developer was critical.”

He continued, “Later in my career, having the basic knowledge to understand how people want to interact with software and how design should work puts me in a great place as a product owner. I am able to understand not only how I want it to look and work, but also what it is Technically possible.

Create a connection through food

Goodstein will face a new challenge when he shares his nutritional impact with the Pennsylvania community during the Penn State Cooking Classic, a four-week series of cooking events this spring sponsored by the Penn State College and campus alumni associations. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 2, on Zoom, Goodstein will revive Southern tapas with his “A Little Something on the Side” presentation. This will be Goodstein’s first experience giving live cooking instructions, and he has been asked to showcase cuisines with which he has little experience.

“It would be very interesting to me because I had never lived in the South, and Southern cooking is not something I am expert at at all,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time exploring different dishes, practicing them, and inventing variations of them to make them my own.”

But he said it would give him the opportunity not only to have fun while mastering some new skills in the kitchen, but also to re-engage with his university in a meaningful way.

Goodstein said, “This gives me an opportunity to build a relationship with Penn State and IST and highlight that alumni are everywhere, doing different things and trying new experiences. It will be interesting to watch and learn about what other Penn State alumni are doing, while learning about new foods too” .

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