When Anthony Bourdain met the Olive Garden reviewer

The pair hit it off, and he even published a book of her food reviews.
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Anthony Bourdain will forever have a place in the hearts of Grand Forks citizens – and one in particular.

It was in 2012 that the then 86-year-old columnist Marilyn Hagerty became an unlikely viral sensation thanks to her thoroughly genuine, delightfully unpretentious review of an Olive Garden in her city.

The Grand Forks Herald review turned Hagerty into an overnight celebrity, leading to national TV appearances with Anderson Cooper and The Today Show.

But it also led to a meeting in New York City with Bourdain, the late celebrity who invited her for a coffee after her review struck a chord.

Bourdain made a career out of traveling to far-flung places and embracing the rites and mores of its locals. In Hegarty, he was presented with yet another exotic treasure from right here in his home country.

At his urging, Hagerty compiled a list of her many food reviews for the Herald, which he then published in her book: Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews.

Bourdain wrote the foreword for the book, which you can read in its entirety here, courtesy of the Eater, in which he reveals that Hagerty's authenticity and refreshing optimism is an antidote to what is often an snarky industry.

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He was also struck by the notion that for all the industry's pretensions, the food enjoyed by the majority of Americans is not found in small, niche New York restaurants.

"This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating—still ARE eating—in much of America," he wrote. "As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can—while hurting no one."

After Bourdain's death was reported on Friday, Hagerty spoke with the Herald about her experience with him, describing the time they met for coffee as being like a meeting with a friend.

"He was fun to talk to. It was a nice visit, he told me about his little girl, we talked about life in Grand Forks and about restaurants," she said.

"The ones I frequent were much different from the ones he spends time in but he seemed to respect and think it's important to write about restaurant that most readers can go to."

"All these years, people who didn’t know me were just so impressed that Anthony Bourdain published my book,” she told Time magazine on Friday.

“Why would he notice me, in Grand Forks, North Dakota? But he did."

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Grand Forks food writer gains overnight fame for Olive Garden review

Marilyn Hagerty's review of the new Grand Forks Olive Garden is a hit on food web sites and social media. Her newspaper account of a meal at the chain is described as "earnest," "pleasant," and "refreshing." Some readers wondered if it was a schtick from the Onion. Hagerty herself is a little mystified by all the attention.

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