You may remember an old woman’s review of her local Olive Garden making the rounds on social media. The 85-year-old newspaper columnist, Marilyn Hagerty, received international attention when her no-nonsense review of a local chain restaurant went viral. Hagerty’s summation of the Olive Garden being the “largest and most beautiful restaurant” with a chicken alfredo “warm and comforting on a cold day” caught the eye of Anthony Bourdain, who admitted to initially being on the side of the masses making fun of Hagerty. However, Bourdain eventually said that “Marilyn Hagerty’s years of reviews to be a history of dining in America too few of us from the coasts have seen. We need to see.”
And indeed, Bourdain lived up to these remarks by collaborating with Hagerty on her book, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews. In the forward, Bourdain said that “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,” according to ABC7.
So it’s not surprising that Hagerty was just as grief-stricken as the rest of the culinary world and beyond to hear of Bourdain’s death. Hagerty said that although she only met Bourdain over coffee once, that “He was a person who spoke up and showed respect for the work that I do in a community like ours.” Hagerty also thinks that Bourdain wanted to meet over coffee “to get an idea of whether I was kooky or what,” reported the Grand Forks Herald.
In 2012, Marilyn Hagerty wrote a glowing review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota. And while the internet laughed at Hagerty, one person came to her defence — Anthony Bourdain #TheMoment pic.twitter.com/NAkiAMxvn5— CBC News: The National (@CBCTheNational) June 9, 2018
After their meeting over coffee, Bourdain set up an opportunity for Hagerty to review one of New York City’s finest restaurants, Le Bernardin.
The book that the two collaborated on is a collection of Hagerty’s Eatbeat columns from the newspaper, and for Bourdain, it was an important piece since it described the “history of Hagerty.” Hagerty believes that the book is only doing well because of Bourdain’s association with it.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you... You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” — Anthony Bourdain #RIP pic.twitter.com/1X5IoWzLbC— Tribeca (@Tribeca) June 8, 2018
And indeed, her 15 minutes of internet fame may have come and gone without much notice without Bourdain. A book may never have been published, or received any attention even if it had. What Bourdain saw in Hagerty is what he often saw in everyday street food or luxurious meals: a passion for food that couldn’t be disregarded.
Hagerty summed Bourdain up in her succinct no-nonsense manner.
“He was different. He wasn’t the usual food writer. He was Anthony Bourdain.”