“When we share and break bread, we can truly make a difference in the community”

Jamilka Borges talks about her experiences as a Chef in Pittsburgh and how her cultural traditions are preserved in her food.

About the speaker

Jamilka Borges is the Executive Chef at Independent Hospitality Group, overseeing Independent, Hidden Harbor and Lorelei kitchens. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico she developed an interest in art and food early in her life. After attending University of Puerto Rico, she decided to move to Pittsburgh and enroll in Culinary school. It was then that she applied to work at the recently opened Legume Bistro, which was Pittsburgh’s first true farm to table restaurant, teaching her valuable lessons on sustainability, butchery and fermentation. She was promoted to Sous Chef and left the restaurant six years later as the Chef di Cuisine to pursue her first Executive Chef job.

As Executive Chef at the Livermore and Bar Marco, she led an ambitious preservation program and developed a rotating tasting menu in the Wine Room cellar along side, Sarah Thomas, now Advanced Sommelier at Le Bernardin. Her commitment to a unique farm to table dining experience led Bar Marco to be nominated for Best New Restaurant 2013 by Bon Appetit and The Wine Room being named “Best Dining Experience in Pittsburgh”.

Jamilka’s work also includes time as the Executive Chef of Food Revolution Cooking Club, a program that taught nearly 30 high school students cooking techniques and provided them with nutritional guidance. A new opportunity to take on the role of Executive Chef at Spoon, one of Pittsburgh finest restaurants, surfaced, and she partnered with long time friend and mentor Brian Pekarcik to implement a new, simplistic and whimsical menu and décor at the established restaurant.

In 2015 Jamilka was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef Semifinalist and was honored as Best Chefs America’s Rising Star Chef. In 2016 was named Starchefs Rising Star for the Rustbelt Region. In 2018 she was named Pittsburgh Magazine Chef of the Year, recognizing her commitment with her community, culinary skills and voluntarism.

Currently, Jamilka works with 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit organization that is looking to eliminate hunger while reducing food waste, and is also a James Beard Boot Camp for Policy and Change alumna.

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