ÖOver the past decade, Jamilka Borges has received high praise for her cuisine in restaurants such as Legume, Bar Marco, Spoon and Independent Brewing Company. Among the awards: Borges was Pittsburgh Magazine’s Cook of the Year in 2018, and she is a two-time James Beard Award semi-finalist; 2015 for Rising Star Chef of the Year and 2019 for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
Now she is ready to go into business for herself. Borges will open Wild Child in Etna later this summer.
“I’ve been cooking in other people’s kitchens for 12 years. This is the first time it’s my restaurant. It’s an opportunity to bring everything I believe in into my own little space, ”she says.
Borges plans to introduce Wild Child with daytime duty from late July or early August. The first breakfast menu is expected to include two sandwiches (one with meat, eggs and toppings and one with vegan or vegetarian preparation), homemade pastries and bread, and two or three bowls of vegetables facing the front. It offers bespoke flavors from Millie’s with a soft serve for customers who want ice cream, coffee and freshly made juices for breakfast. Lunch is expanded to include more sandwiches, composed salads and dishes such as ceviche.
The restaurant will open with limited seating. Due to the physical distancing measures required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Borges will also pack food to carry out. “What is happening right now is that people are adapting to a more casual eating style. We don’t know what will happen in the next few months. So the take-out aspect will be part of every deal. You have to be able to do that and do it well, ”she says.
The well-traveled cook is not yet sure when she will start dinner. Borges is still working on the details of their serving, but says the dinner menu will tend more towards formal dining. Overall, according to Borges, seafood and vegetables will be a major focus of Wild Child. “There is a variety of food on the coast. The food I’ve always been drawn to comes from all over the world, ”she says.
At some point, she plans to bring her cadre of culinary peers from across the country to Pittsburgh for curated dinners. “I’ve done all of these big dinners here for 412 Food Rescue and other organizations, but I always wanted a space where I could take the chefs I’m friends with to Pittsburgh in a one-on-one situation,” she says.
The building that last housed the Seasons restaurant is currently being renovated. Borges and her team are cleaning up the dining room, upgrading the kitchen with a new convection oven and six-burner stove, and adding a designated area for pastry and dough work.
“When I think about the space I want, it’s inspired by places I’ve traveled and friends I’ve worked with,” says Borges.
As for Mount Etna, Borges says the 500-acre neighborhood on the Allegheny River is an easy place to visit. “People may think of it as a travel destination, but getting there isn’t a big detour,” she says.