A high-profile Maine chef told a judge Tuesday she is not guilty of a charge that she wrote more than $8,800 in bad checks.

Shannon Bard, who was the chef and co-owner of Zapoteca in Portland and Toroso in Kennebunk, was released on personal recognizance after making her initial court appearance. She was told to return to Cumberland County Superior Court in June for a dispositional hearing on the case.

Bard faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if convicted on the felony charge.

Bard said she was not guilty during her appearance Tuesday morning, but otherwise the proceedings were handled by her lawyer, Stephen Schwartz.

Shannon Bard and her husband, Thomas Bard, were indicted by a grand jury this month on charges of writing bad checks to Bow Street Distributing, a wine, beer and liquor distributor in Freeport.

Thomas Bard made his initial appearance last week on a charge that he wrote more than $10,000 in bad checks to Bow Street. Because of the higher amount of bad checks he allegedly wrote, Thomas Bard could go to jail for 10 years and face a fine of up to $20,000 if convicted.


Thomas Bard was also released on personal recognizance after his initial appearance, meaning he didn’t have to post bail.

Thomas and Shannon Bard are charged with theft by deception and negotiating a worthless instrument.

Schwartz said his client – who made a name for herself appearing on Food Network shows and has written cookbooks – was the chef for Zapoteca and wasn’t authorized to write checks to vendors. He said that was the responsibility of Thomas Bard, who ran the couple’s company, Bard Enterprises.

“She was a chef and a very good chef,” Schwartz said of Shannon Bard.

Schwartz said prosecutors haven’t turned over any evidence that his client committed a crime.

Schwartz also said that the Bards are still living in Kennebunk, although their house there is in foreclosure. Thomas Bard filed a request with the court asking that correspondence on his case be sent to an address in Harvard, Massachusetts, although a city street directory and online maps indicate that address doesn’t exist. Other documents indicate that court officials believe both Bards have relocated to Massachusetts, although that issue wasn’t addressed in Shannon Bard’s appearance Tuesday.

Zapoteca was a highly regarded Mexican restaurant in Portland, but the Bards announced last year that they were closing it to spend more time with their children, who were in high school and college. The couple and their business faced a host of lawsuits by vendors and employees saying they hadn’t been paid, most of which have been resolved in favor of the vendors.

They later closed Toroso and there have been lawsuits filed over unpaid bills in connection with that restaurant. The building that housed that restaurant in Kennebunk’s Lower Village was sold at a foreclosure auction last December.

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