Critic who vent viral for her Olive Garden review reveals how Anthony Bourdain stuck up for her
Last week, the world was saddened to hear about the death of TV chef Anthony Bourdain. The 61-year-old was discovered unresponsive in a France hotel room on Friday morning after apparently taking his own life, and his passing caused a tidal wave of condolences and tributes to come pouring in from all corners of the world.
Along with the thousands of messages of sadness and loss, however, there were just as many - perhaps even more - of fond memories and sweet anecdotes.
One particular story that made the rounds was that of Bourdain's response to an elderly woman who had written a charming review of her local Olive Garden.
The incident happened back in 2012, when Marilyn Hagerty - a then-85-year-old woman - posted about a recent trip she'd taken to a new Olive Garden that had opened up in her town.
"After a lengthy wait for Olive Garden to open in Grand Forks, the lines were long in February," she wrote. "The novelty is slowly wearing off, but the steady following attests the warm welcome."
Of course, the restaurant chain is well-known across the states, and so Hagerty's review seemed a little naive at times:
"The server first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.
"The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese."
Her conclusion, in particular, struck many as humorous:
"All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here."
Shortly after it was published, Hegarty's review went viral, and she quickly started receiving criticism from fellow restaurant critics and anonymous Twitter trolls alike. Not being familiar with social media, though, Hagerty didn't really understand how her post had attained so much attention - nor why so many people found it so funny.
Amongst all the negative Nellies, however, one proponent of the review stood out. It was, of course, Anthony Bourdain.
At the time, the chef tweeted: "Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included)."
What's more, Bourdain also helped the food critic by flying her out to one of his restaurants and publishing a book of her columns. In the foreword, he 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."
In the wake of his death, Hagerty - now 92 - has shared her thoughts on the man.
"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."
She said that she had spoken for hours over coffee - during which time Bourdain never came across as self-absorbed, and, in fact, he spent a lot of time asking about her life.
"I am sorry that Anthony Bourdain died. I'm especially sorry about the way he died," Hagerty concluded. "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."