Writer of viral Olive Garden review grateful for Anthony Bourdain

FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 file photo, Anthony Bourdain arrives at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. On Friday, June 8, 2018, Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France, while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions around the world. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/file 2015
Anthony Bourdain.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A North Dakota newspaper columnist who received online vitriol in 2012 for her glowing review of an Olive Garden in Grand Forks said Saturday she was grateful that Anthony Bourdain came to her defense as others ridiculed her prose about the town’s hottest new Italian restaurant.

Marilyn Hagerty catapulted to internet fame after her Olive Garden review, in which she marveled about the chain restaurant’s chicken Alfredo, crisp greens and ‘‘two long, warm breadsticks.’’ Then, she learned what it’s like to go viral.

Bourdain, who died Friday in France in an apparent suicide at age 61, was among those who stood up for her on Twitter. The celebrity chef and TV host asked to meet her for coffee while she was on a media tour in New York, and he ended up publishing a book of her columns, ‘‘Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews.’’


In the foreword, Bourdain wrote: ‘‘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. This book kills snark dead.’’

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Hagerty, who’s 92, said she enjoyed meeting Bourdain, whom she described as ‘‘handsome.’’ She said they talked for a couple of hours about her life, North Dakota and a birthday party he held for his daughter, who was 5 at the time.

‘‘You just would like to sit and have coffee with him, or booze, or whatever he’s having,’’ she said. ‘‘To me, he was a warm person, and you liked to spend time with him because he was interested. He wanted to talk about me and my home ... he just didn’t talk about himself and his interest in food.’’

She went on to say: ‘‘It was just like talking to a friend.’’

Hagerty said she knew Bourdain’s work was popular but admitted she wasn’t a huge fan.


‘‘I never really could understand a lot of the things he did, why he’d want to do them,’’ she said. ‘‘But he wasn’t weird or kooky or anything. He was just a really pleasant person.’’

Hagerty said she thought Bourdain, who wrote the bestselling book ‘‘Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly’’ and hosted TV shows including ‘‘A Cook’s Tour’’ and ‘‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,’’ wanted to meet with her so he could make sure she wasn’t ‘‘some kind of a kook’’ before he decided to work on her book.

‘‘I am sorry that Anthony Bourdain died. I’m especially sorry about the way he died,’’ Hagerty said. ‘‘And, of course, I’m forever grateful for the fact that he chose to enter in and take up my side in the dispute that I had nothing to do with.’’

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or planning self-harm, there are resources available to help:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-TALK (8255)
A 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hot line available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention
An alliance of suicide prevention advocates. The website contains resources and information:

Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
Text 741741 to talk with a real-life human being trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem solving.

Riverside Trauma Center
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The Trevor Helpline
866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
This crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline is focused on LGBTQ youth.