Jamilka’s Borges’ new restaurant, Wild Child, will be as unconventional as the chef herself.
“We describe it as eclectic coastal cuisine nowhere near a coast,” she says. “It’s reflective of who I am and the food I like to cook.”
The spot at 372 Butler Street in Etna will open later this year for breakfast and lunch and slowly ease into dinner service. The Caribbean-influenced menu will focus on seafood and vegetables with dishes such as shrimp pastelillos and whole snapper stuffed with maduros, tostones, Romesco and verde.
Borges, a Puerto Rico native who moved to Pittsburgh 12 years ago to attend culinary school, is excited to share her personal favorites with Wild Child patrons in the space of the former Seasons.
Her fun-loving style is on display throughout the small space, from the vivid pink takeout counter backed by a vibrant flower mural to the whitewashed wood paneling, adorned with artwork by Borges’ friends. Even her best friend’s mother-in-law pitched in to make the tabletops.
The encouragement and support of colleagues and loved ones is what inspired Borges to open her own place, despite the pandemic.
In March, Borges returned to Puerto Rico for a quick recharge, but due to the global shutdown, she was stuck in San Juan for a month. During that time, she reflected on her career, which started at Legume Bistro and includes executive chef stints at the Livermore, Bar Marco, Spoon, The Independent Brewing Company, Hidden Harbor and Lorelei.
It’s always been her dream to run a restaurant, but even with an impressive resume — in 2015, the James Beard Foundation named her as a Rising Star Chef Semifinalist — she doubted her ability to go solo.
A Zoom meeting with fellow chefs from across the country was just the pep talk she needed. They encouraged her to strike out on her own and create an eatery that’s an extension of her bright personality.
“When someone believes in you like that, it means a lot,” she says.
She’s also been embraced by the Etna community. Every day, local residents and business owners stop by for a Wild Child status report.
“They’re excited to come in and eat,” Borges says, “and I’m excited to continue those relationships and feed people.”