Chef Jamilka Borges of Spoon - Biography

Pittsburgh, PA

September 2016

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Jamilka Borges had dreams of flying. She wanted to be pilot. A flight of childhood fancy, that aspiration eventually turned more artistic. Borges decided she would be a painter and studied art history in college. By the time she graduated, though, she had some restaurant experience under her belt and a simmering interest in food.

In 2007, at age 20, an opportunity arose and Borges made way to the States, enrolling in the culinary program at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. At the time, the city’s fledgling restaurant scene was just beginning to get its footing. Borges joined the team at Trevett Hooper’s Legume, learning honest, sustainable cooking with the freedom to not worry about trends. She also discovered that being “local” means more than throwing a name on the menu, and that it requires forging friendships with farmers and purveyors.

It was at Bar Marco that Borges made a name for herself in Pittsburgh and nationally, cooking inventive Ameri-kinda-Mediterranean-ish food. In 2015, she was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef” Award, and in early 2016, Borges joined S+P Restaurant Group, teaming up with Rising Stars alum and Sommelier John Wabeck. While helming Spoon, Borges is also transforming an adjoining restaurant into another concept, perhaps playing with her Puerto Rican heritage and love of the sea.