Top Chef Shannon Bard closes Portland restaurant

Shannon Bard at Zapoteca. Photo by Troy Bennett

After six years serving up wood-fired Mexican cuisine in the Old Port, chef Shannon Bard’s restaurant Zapoteca on Fore Street is now closed.

“It’s a sad day,” said Bard, who announced the news Wednesday afternoon. “At the same time I am hopeful. For the first time in five days I’ll go home tonight and have dinner with my family and sleep at home.”

The last meal service was Saturday night.

Last year Bard expanded into Kennebunk, with restaurants Toroso and Salud Bistro. This spring she opened a wedding barn, which she caters. Add a cooking school and the growing York County enterprise she built with her husband Tom Bard stretched the celebrity chef thin. Commuting from Kennebunk, where she is raising four children, to Portland took a toll.

Unable to give her fiery flagship restaurant and staff her full attention, the quality and experience slipped. “I couldn’t be there as much as I wanted to be and wasn’t proud of the food,” she said. “I want to leave on a high note.”

Bard has grown in national stature as niche television programs have made stars out of chefs. She appeared on the popular culinary face-off show “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2014, as well as the Food Network’s “Kitchen Inferno,” among other high-profile appearances.

The wood-fired oven at Zapoteca is now cold.

The decision to close was both personal and professional. The state’s crippling labor shortage played a small factor as did Portland’s competitive food scene. Business had dropped off as diners seek “shiny new places,” but the primary trigger was missing out on her children’s lives.

“It’s a business decision and a lifestyle decision,” said Bard, whose first child just graduated from high school.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. We had staffing issues because we haven’t been able to give them the support they need. As we lose staff, we could not continue to hire. It would be more damaging to the brand to keep it open.”

The restaurant and bar with a wood-fired oven will be up for lease soon.

Fear not Zap fans, the watermelon jalepeno margaritas and lobster tacos will resurface down south soon. “We will add more tequila to the bar and moles,” said Bard. “Stay tuned for all that.”

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.