Named Pittsburgh Magazine
’s 2018 Chef of the Year, Borges helms the kitchen at The Independent Brewing Company
in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, fusing her classical French training and Puerto Rican traditions in imaginative, seasonal fare that she describes as “vibrant, nurturing, and refined.” The chef earned her first James Beard Award nomination in 2015 and was a semifinalist for this year’s Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award. She’s also a huge supporter of 412 Food Rescue
, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works to combat food waste.
“Besides being a fantastic chef,” says James Beard Foundation COO Kris Moon, “Jamilka does a great deal of work to redirect perfectly good food from landfills to those who truly need it.” Such efforts, he adds, epitomize the organization’s focus on sustainability and its guiding principle of promoting “good food for good.”
It’s appropriate, then, that we’re cruising around Costa Rica, where sustainability efforts are embedded in the culture. For starters, more than 95 percent of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources, and its organic and carbon-neutral agricultural practices were on international display a few months ago when the United Nations’ second global conference on sustainable food systems convened in San José.
’s small size allows us to take full advantage of the country’s bounty with daily supplies of locally sourced produce, and I start each day by piling a plate full of succulent melon, papaya, mango, and pineapple during an alfresco breakfast. (Confession: My first stop is actually the top-of-ship espresso bar, where our barista, Yogi, greets me each day with a warm smile and the query: “Hello, Miss Susan! Would you like your double cappuccino?”)
The voyage also features a series of culinary-themed shore excursions. In Quepos, for example, we walk through the local farmers’ market before a lunch of ceviche and picadillo at a nearby private ranch. Another tour takes me to Finca Kobo
, a traditional cacao plantation, for a lesson in Costa Rica’s rich chocolate culture. Our local guide explains how the indigenous Chorotega people used cacao beans as currency until the early twentieth century and extols the fruit’s many health benefits, but the specifics get lost between bites of homemade banana bread dipped in chocolate fondue.