Interview #91: Jamilka Borges

Photo credit: Alaina Webber

Jamilka's personality is just like Jamilka's food: absolutely awesome.

You see, I've had some memorable experiences at Bar Marco over the past year.

  • We hosted our "Food" themed CreativeMornings at Bar Marco. 
  • My husband Nik threw me a suprise birthday party in their upstairs space where we enjoyed a family-style meal with a group of friends.
  • I also got to step into their kitchen and help cook for two No Menu Mondays. (They share their kitchen up weekly to other cooks and chefs! Seriously. No joke.)

I briefly met Jamilka at a few of these events, but I knew that I would really like to sit down and learn more about her one day. 

Luckily, Jamilka agreed to an interview and I met with her on a Friday afternoon at Bar Marco. (Of course!)

I learned Jamilka is originally from Puerto Rico, and she started cooking at a young age with her mother. She speaks softly (she claims she's a little shy) but when she talks about food she absolutely lights up. She's so passionate and it's so inspiring. 

I loved hearing stories of her favorite meals. She described how she loves a simple pasta with butter and excellent cheese. My mouth was watering. 

I was thrilled (and so honored) to be invited to return to Bar Marco that evening to experience Jamilka's cooking in their amazing and recently renovated Wine Room.

All I have to say is that it was eight delightful courses with mind-blowing wine pairings ... and they featured not one but TWO desserts. I learned I like mushroom custard, savored the best mussels and potato soup of my life, sipped on a wine that tasted like unicorn tears, and made a few new friends thanks to the communal seating. 

Enjoy Jamilka's Q&A, and get thee to Bar Marco if you really want to experience food at it's finest. 

P.S. The crew at Bar Marco are teaching kids how to cook at The Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club at Obama High School. Check out their campaign and help them get the kids a food truck! 

Jamilka Borges

Job title: Executive Chef at Bar Marco

Twitter: @jamilkabm

Neighborhood you live in: Bloomfield

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Cortado

Current Shampoo Preference: No poo from Deva- Curl. (Curls are kind of tricky.)

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I moved here seven years ago to go to school and my boyfriend at the time was here. The relationship didn't survive, but I fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Pittsburgh is small, pretty, friendly ... what's not to love?

Who do you spend your time with?
Mostly with coworkers, in and out of work. Lately with my boyfriend, too.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
That I can go through so many mood changes in a single day and it's totally ok. Kitchens can be hectic, but they can also be fun and at times, relaxing. I really enjoy the first two to three hours of my day, when I get to prep by myself in an empty kitchen—that's relaxation at best.

Coming up with menus and parings with our Wine Director, Sarah Thomas, for our dinners in the wine room is also great. We have come to understand each others palate and style so well that is almost scary.

Do you have a soul food?
Plantains and empanadas! I love fried plantains!

What are some of your recent personal goals?
Professionally? Continue working on the launch of our Wine Room and keep working with the Food Revolution Cooking Club.

On a personal level? To take a real day off weekly. I've been trying to get back into running, too.

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?
Legume! I also love Spoon, Cure, Dish and Dinette.

Describe your ideal day.
Coffee in the morning, go into work, cook without anything crazy happening then meet some friends for a drink and late dinner.

I guess that's more of a good typical day.

An ideal day would be a Sunday ... I wouldn't be working brunch and would be able to join my friends for brunch (hopefully at Eleven!) and then we'd walk to a park and take a nap on the grass. Later that night we'd go to a movie, and then I'd cook dinner for friends at my house.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
La Boheme at the Benedum ... maybe 4 years ago? It was great to see my favorite opera here and my lovely mother was in town that weekend, so I got to have the best company.

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
Pittsburgh keeps growing and getting more and more diverse. It's insane how much my industry has changed in the last four years, I could not imagine what's going to happen in 10!  I love how friendly and laid back the city is … it's so easy to live here and there's always something to do.