Yinzstagram Spotlight #3: Matt Brinker of Morningafterpgh

Originally published October 29th, 2017.

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Wow. The timing could not be more perfect for releasing this interview with Matt Brinker, of the Instagram account @morningafterpgh...

A: It is Halloweekend, and I'm literally reviving this zombie "Yinzstagram - Pittsburgh Instagrammer Spotlight" series from the dead. 


B: I am low key hungover right now, and that's exactly what Matt works to cure on his account!

If you don't know what my Yinzstagrammer series is..... that makes complete sense, as I do not do it very often. You can find out more information here

Matt and I met via Instagram a few months ago and became fast friends over a shared love of baked goods, booze, and Pittsburgh. I've always loved his laid-back and humorous blogging style, as well as his interest in showing off Pittsburgh. 

 Matt can be found on his Instagram, and on morningafterpittsburgh.com

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Instagram Handle:  @morningafterpgh

Which came first - blog or Instagram? Why start?
Matt Brinker:  Definitely the Instagram. I eat so much and I’ve been a desk jockey for a long time. The Instagram was the start of side-hustle.

I love food and coffee. It was the only thing I could think of that I wanted to share with people that would also sustain my own interest. It gives me a great excuse to keep trying all the new places in Pittsburgh. 

Through my account I’ve taken a real deep interest in coffee, the history of it all, where it came from etc. I’m dying to go do a tourist trip to some of the next wave coffee shops in California like Verve and Cat and Cloud.

Where did the name come from? 
MB: When I was kicking around names, I thought about how I’m obsessed with breakfast and brunch. I wanted to include that aspect to it. I also thought about how Sunday brunches were always my hangover remedies in college -  things like a big greasy omelet, bottomless coffee, side of bacon. That’s what I wanted my Instagram/blog to feel like - a Sunday where you were trying to get rid of a hangover after a night of partying. Is that weird? Probably.

I actually commissioned someone on freelancer.com to make me a personified doughnut looking hungover with sunglasses and a cigarette as my logo, but it turned out so bad I never used it. I look at it a lot though when I need to laugh.

Have you always been interested in photography? 
MB: I started to become interested at the amateur level when I started my personal account (@karna6e). There’s a lot to it, but to get started you just need your phone. With that you can do so much.

Phone cameras have come so far in the past couple years and the editing software is great. You can teach yourself so much with your phone and good editing software like Snapseed. I’m still self-taught, but I’m trying to make some time to take classes. I feel like there’s so much more to learn about composition and editing, to even just learn the foundations would increase picture quality by so much.

Years ago we bought a fairly expensive camera when we had kids, but the picture quality now is so good from a newer phone, the views have to be pretty great to lug around the big camera now.

Have you always been interested in food?
MB: Growing up, I didn’t watch a lot of the same shows as my parents (like most kids), but for whatever reason, my dad would always watch cooking shows on PBS on Sunday (I think) mornings. We didn’t have cable growing up - not because we were poor, my dad was just super cheap - so PBS was one of like 5 channels we could get with the rabbit ears. I remembered all my friends were talking about Real World on MTV and I was thinking about the latest Ciao Italia. My dad was kind of funny though. He’d watch all these cooking shows and then he’d fry up some Spam for the family while drinking Keystone Light, or something just as awful.

When I was at Penn State, I finally sprung for cable because I worked and had a little spending money. The Food Network was amazing. I never turned it off. I watched Alton Brown on Good Eats all the time. He was on constantly in reruns. That's where I learned the fundamentals of cooking. My older sister was up at Penn State at the same time as me, and we would both comment on the latest Iron Chef, which back then was just the original Japanese version. We’d do our best imitation of the judges. My sister would giggle and say, “Oh this soufflé is so surprising” and then we’d laugh and laugh.

I think from watching a lot of cooking shows is where my initial interest springs from. Then later, I really started to enjoy cooking myself. I’m pretty good - I mean, thousands of hours of watching cooking shows, you have to retain some of that right?

I took up bread making a couple years ago and have taken classes for that. I like to dabble and learn how things are made. Cooking has taken a little bit of a backseat now because I have 3 small girls at home and I can’t make them seared ahi tuna because the little monsters won’t eat it. I call it our “beige period."  Everything is just the color of blah. It’s all French fries and grilled meat. They don’t even eat mashed potatoes even though it’s clearly within the acceptable color palette. They may not be my kids now that I think of it....

A post shared by Matt B. (@morningafterpgh) on

What is a place that if you go and forget your camera, you are really kicking yourself?
 As long as I have my phone on me now, I feel good to go in any situation. Usually, I’m worried about missing my kids doing something cute. But sometimes you’re trying to balance capturing the moment versus enjoying it, and it’s always a struggle. Especially with how small and cute they are. It's weird, because we literally have thousands of pictures of the buggers.

My mom at one point gave me a modest-size photo book of me as a child and was like, “Here’s your pictures, and they’re just taking up room at this point.” I’m fairly certain the book wasn’t even filled up. There’s a balance there, and I don’t think I’ve found it.

I’m actually more annoyed when restaurants have weird lighting and it messes up my pictures for MorningAfterPGH. For example, Tako has red lighting akin to heat lamps and it’s legit one of the best restaurants in the city. I’m always like, “These pics are garbage, but I’ll have 3 more tacos”.

I just ate at Morcilla, and the lighting is orangish-yellow in there. I wanted to cry because each dish was better than the last, but again the pics are not good. The good news is if I post pics in black and white, everyone just assumes I’m artsy.

I loved your angle of, "Casellula, the friend that's waaaaaay into that Star Wars....." I totally get that. Have funny comparisons, or lighthearted reviews always been your style?
MB: For anyone that ever talked to me, that’s honestly just how I talk. I think it would be weird to not bring my smartass personality to my Instagram.

I do worry sometimes that people don’t know I’m joking because you can’t convey tone in text outside of tacking on emojis (which gets a little nausea-inducing sometimes). I try to take most shots at myself and not the food. I never try to take myself too seriously, especially as someone that’s just eating this stuff. People just want to know if you think it’s good. I do think I’m running out of adjectives though. How many times am I going to say this coffee and “bright and balanced”? Tune into my Instagram account to find out.

Any favorite blogs or instagram accounts you draw inspiration from?
 Before they got sued into oblivion, I read Gawker media every day. I really liked their style of telling you the news, but adding commentary to it. I always liked getting my news with some humor, which is probably why I loved Daily Show growing up. If you’re going to watch or read something and it has a little bit of humor, why not. 

Do you like Pittsburgh's instagram culture? 
 Overall, yes. I’ve met some fantastic people and there’s this creative class that all support each other and it’s just fantastic. Everyone is really approachable. It’s really inspiring to me because when I was in college, I considered myself creative. Then you get a job in 'the real world' and that part of you takes a backseat to paying bills and kids and everything else.

I took fiction writing in college, and just to do this has rekindled a lot of that feeling. I love seeing that in other people. You’re always seeing individuals trying new things and it forces you to grow, or to try something else yourself. Instagram has opened that world for me, so I'm appreciative of that.

Do you have one or two photo that sticks out from your feed - and why?
 I’m actually partial to my very first one:

A post shared by Matt B. (@morningafterpgh) on

That Unicorn Frappuccino had just come out and I was thinking, “Oh how lucky, I’m starting this food Insta, and this very photogenic drink just came out." I thought, "Oh my little girls will love it, and pics of cute kids kill on Instagram." They tried it, and Madeline - my oldest - just hated it. I couldn’t believe she hated a pink drink with sparkles in it. I think by the end of the week all those stories were coming out where the baristas at Starbucks were breaking down because these drinks were so labor-intensive to make. That’s the only picture where I feel like there’s a decent backstory behind it that’s kind of funny. 

I remember taking a shot at Starbucks in the caption and thinking, “Oh, I’m going to tell everyone how it is when I don’t like something.” Well later, you buy a dish of food from a local restaurant and don’t like it and you think that you just can’t take potshots at these chefs. These dishes are the end product of a ton of their own time and money. So, the moral of that story was, it was very easy to call out a multi-national conglomerate like Starbucks, but not the pop-up baked good biz at your local farmer’s market for putting out a stale, tasteless scone.

What is Pittsburgh's food scene lacking?
 Like I said, I’m obsessed with coffee, so I’m always thinking we need more coffee shops. There’s that “third place” theory, where everyone needs a third place to go besides home and work/schoo. I want more giant coffee shops with Third Wave coffees. I love Generoasta in Wexford, and Adda in the city, but we need more of those places in the suburbs. In the city that’s represented a little more, but I want them on every corner.

Our ramen game is getting better, but we need more outside of Lawrenceville. Us yuppies need some love too. We only have a handful of Korean places, I definitely want more of that.

I'm sure this is a hot take too, but we need more bakeries/cafes centered around bread. We have some bakeries that do bread well, but they don't have the pizzas, flatbreads, avocado toast et cetera. I'd love to see a couple of those style of cafes pop up in Pittsburgh.

What do we pat ourselves on the back too much about?
 This may be controversial, but I think it’s time to let go of the Primanti’s sandwich as the "bat signal" for Pittsburgh food. It’s a fine sandwich, but I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of where we’re at as a city anymore. 

Additionally, ketchup overall is garbage condiment. Doesn't bring anything to the table and it doesn't taste like tomatoes. If you want something sweet on your fries, put some maple syrup in your fanny pack.  - Make sure you get my address correct so they know where to send the hate mail.

Why Pittsburgh?
:  I’ve always lived around the city, so really I don’t know anywhere else. Somewhat comically, I was always one of those kids that didn’t pay attention to where they were going when I was in the car - I just looked out the window. Because of this, I’m really really bad at where stuff is, and the different areas of the city.  This Instagram account was also partially about me “relearning” the city that I’ve lived around my entire life. And honestly, people here are really nice, so if I can help other people learn about the city, that’s great.

If you could move ANY direction with Morningafter (book, tv show, physical restaurant - the sky is the limit!), what would it be?
Long term, I’d love to be Rick Sebak’s sidekick on anything that he does.  He’s so nice I feel like I’d be fired within the first 15 minutes. “Look, we really didn’t need a smarmy sidekick that makes horrible jokes all the time, I’m not sure whose idea this was.”

I’d really like to do something on TV, or online video like YouTube eventually. I always saw myself doing something like an Anthony Bourdain/Rick Sebak style of show, but with shitty jokes and just in Pittsburgh. With this city, you just need to give people an opportunity to tell their story through food and they'll do it every time.

Short-term, I'd also really love to do a podcast. Nothing major - just a once-a-week show, kind of like a Pittsburgh variety show. We could talk about food, but also other Pittsburgh news. When I was growing up and stayed home from school, I loved watching Regis and Kathie Lee in the morning. I loved the feel of the first 15 mins of that show where they'd talk about the news. I'd like to do an hour like that with a Pittsburgh-centric focus and just riff for an hour. 

If none of that pans out, I would like to open a coffee shop someday. I always have champagne budgets, so in my head, it's this huge, amazing coffee shop at some sweet location. It's not impossible, but the way I want to do it seems far off, especially with the current daycare bills. I’m trying to teach my 3-year-old how to make a macchiato but it’s not going so well.

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