Mocked online for Olive Garden review, Marilyn Hagerty recalls working with Anthony Bourdain

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After North Dakota newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty was widely mocked online for a 2012 Olive Garden review, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain published a collection of her restaurant reviews. (Harper Collins/Getty Images/AP Photo)

The internet was not kind to local newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty after she published a review of her local Olive Garden in 2012.

Hagerty hailed the location as the "largest and most beautiful restaurant" operating in Grand Forks, North Dakota. She lauded the decor, the attentive wait staff and (of course) the chicken alfredo, which she said was "warm and comforting on a cold day."

The review racked up hundreds of thousands of page views, and the mocking and sniping on social media followed shortly thereafter. And while late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain admitted that he, too, initially laughed at Hagerty's no-nonsense review, he later came around and pointed out that Hagerty's work highlighted "the America too few of us from the coasts have seen."


The review brought Hagerty international attention, and she soon embarked on a media tour that included stops at "Good Morning America," "Top Chef" and the New York Times -- and an eventual collaboration with Bourdain, who edited and published "Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews," a book of Hagerty's small-town restaurant reviews.

"This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating-still ARE eating-in much of America. As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can-while hurting no one," Bourdain wrote in the book's foreword, which Eater republished in its entirety. "Anyone who comes away from this work anything less than charmed by Ms. Hagerty-and the places and characters she describes-has a heart of stone."



After news of Bourdain's suicide broke, Hagerty spoke to the Grand Forks Herald about her experience working with Bourdain.

"He was a person who spoke up and showed respect for the work that I do in a community like ours," she said. "He spoke his piece and he didn't have to do that, but I think that's the way he was -- I think he spoke his piece and he didn't worry what anyone else said or thought."

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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foodrestaurantssocietybooksnewspaperNorth Dakota