PORTLAND, Maine — After two years on the job, Shannon Bard is cooking for the creme de la creme. The chef and owner of Portland’s upscale Mexican restaurant Zapoteca has been tapped to prepare dinner in January 2014 at the James Beard House in New York. She’s bringing the taste of Maine with her.

“I’ll be feeding the movers and shakers of the culinary world, so I want to feature as many local products as possible,” said Bard, whose menu will reflect “where Mexico meets Maine, lobster and Maine shrimp.”

The culinary arts center in Manhattan hosts weekly dinners featuring the country’s top chefs. Every spring the James Beard Foundation hosts a prestigious awards ceremony. Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland took best chef for the Northeast earlier this year.

Now that Bard, who has been cooking professionally for slightly more than two years, is on their radar, could she be next?

“This puts me in front of the people that could be decision makers. I’ll let my food inform so they can at least notice me,” said Bard, who is known for her intricate moles and sauces.

“A lot of people can go their whole career and not get there. It’s very, very exciting.”

Bard and husband, Tom Bard, opened a second restaurant, Mixteca, in Durham, N.H. in March.

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.