North Dakota Olive Garden Reviewer Recalls How Anthony Bourdain Saved Her From Scorn

Anthony Bourdain championed Marilyn Hagerty
Anthony Bourdain championed Marilyn Hagerty while the internet gave her only ridicule.Grand Forks Herald

Marilyn Hagerty's review of the ubiquitous Italian chain was ridiculed online, but then Bourdain entered the fray.

Marilyn Hagerty's 2012 review of a North Dakota Olive Garden restaurant made her a viral sensation, mostly because of the ridicule lobbed at her for her glowing take on the not-so-highbrow chain.

But in the wake of Anthony Bourdain's shocking suicide, Hagerty's is yet another voice in the chorus of praise and gratitude for the late chef.

And it's all because Bourdain, unlike so much of the internet, saw the good in Hagerty's review.

Whereas some mocked lines like "The chicken Alfredo was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese," Bourdain embraced them along with the now-92-year-old Grand Forks Herald writer.

Not only did Bourdain stand up for Hagerty on Twitter, but he became her champion. After meeting with Hagerty in person, Bourdain ended up publishing a book of her columns titled "Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews."

In the wake of his death Friday in France, Hagerty was contacted by The Associated Press about Bourdain and what it was like to know him.

Like nearly everyone who watched Bourdain's shows or read his books, she described the chef as the kinda guy you simply want to know.

"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."

While Hagerty admits she wasn't the biggest fan of what Bourdain did professionally, she remembers him fondly as a man with a great deal of heart.

"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."

A writer, chef and world traveler, Bourdain's death has left gaping holes in not just the culinary world but also in the worlds of television, publishing and American culture in general.

Mourning fans of his books and series including "A Cook's Tour" and "Parts Unknown" gathered this weekend outside the Manhattan restaurant where Bourdain worked before hitting it big with his book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly."

Outside Les Halles, a French brasserie on Park Avenue, the mourners left flowers and poured messaged of hope and sadness into notes about how the chef changed their lives.

"To me he's a total inspiration," one Bourdain fan Eric Reynolds told CBS New York. "Everything I love about food."

The 61-year-old took his own life Friday while shooting an episode of "Parts Unknown."

"To have such a demon locked inside him that he couldn't talk about is devastating," fan Nikki Vargas said 

Bourdain's body was found in his French hotel room by close friend and fellow chef Éric Ripert.