Chef Shannon Bard Wins $25,000
She may be Sweet and petite, But chef Shannon Bard is a powerhouse in the Kitchen
Recently she was selected as Celebrity Chef in the “Kids and Chefs Cook for Success” program hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. She also had the honor of cooking a five-course dinner at the James Beard House in NYC, and both of her Seacoast restaurants were included in Food Network Magazine’s “50 States, 50 Tacos” feature last year. In December, Chef Bard faced off against top chefs in “Kitchen Inferno” on the Food Network and took home the top prize of $25,000. *This interview was conducted before the results of the show aired.
The cuisine at both of your restaurants, Zapoteca Restaurante Y Tequileria and Mixteca Taqueria Y Cantina is authentic, yet modern Mexican. How does that transform a taco? I created a Maine lobster taco here that is sautéed in duck fat, rather than deep-fried in lard as they do in Mexico and finished with tequila and chipotle powder and served in the lobster shell. My absolute favorite things are intricate moles and sauces that can take days to make. They are much more than interesting than the typical cheesy quesadilla.
How did you get selected to appear on “Kitchen Inferno”? The casting company saw an article on Fox.com about women chefs and liked what I had to say. You’d think that I would be ecstatic to be cast but when I first received the e-mail asking me to interview, I was nearly in tears. On television everything may seem easy but if you make one wrong decision, you risk your reputation and career.
Did you find that reality television has any basis in reality? It’s actually very, very much like what you see on TV. You are given a challenge and within a matter of minutes have to come up with what you are going to make. You then have a time limit to execute your dish using equipment and a kitchen you have never used before. Your dishes are then judged in a blind taste test so the judges have no idea who is competing and who made what. You have to have nerves of steel and keep your confidence.
You are already running two restaurants, are there more ideas in the oven? My first cookbook “The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen” is scheduled to be released on February 17 (available now for pre-order on Amazon). I’m also in the process of launching my catering company (Salud Catering by Shannon Bard) and I recently traveled to Spain to study Spanish cuisine and have plans to open a Spanish restaurant in Portland. Lastly, I’m looking into having my sauces bottled and to be sold at area stores and in the restaurants, so lots and lots of things are in the works.
What are you going to do with the $25,000? Of course, I am assuming that you nailed it. Winning $25,000 wouldn’t be easy. I only began cooking professionally less than five years ago and feel fortunate to have gotten as far as I have so quickly. But — if I win, I’m taking my husband and five kids on a vacation to help re-pay them for the support they’ve given me over the last few years. They are my biggest fans and my inspiration for all I do.