How Anthony Bourdain turned Grand Forks food columnist Marilyn Hagerty into a household name
GRAND FORKS -- Anthony Bourdain was mourned as chef, food writer and TV host after news broke Friday of his death at 61.
While Bourdain’s work took him around the globe, he also helped bring fame to Grand Forks’ own food celebrity, Grand Forks Herald newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty.
Hagerty said she met Bourdain after her 2012 review of the Grand Forks Olive Garden went viral and was the subject of some ridicule on the internet. Though in an interview Bourdain himself admitted to initially being among the skeptics of the Eatbeat column, he later came to appreciate the column as an honest testament to Midwest culture.
“He was a person who spoke up and showed respect for the work that I do in a community like ours,” she said.
Though Hagerty said she never came to know Bourdain on a very personal level, she met up with him once in New York over coffee.
“I think he just wanted to have coffee with me to get an idea of whether I was kooky or what,” she recalled.
The two talked about Bourdain’s past and his family. Hagerty remembered the most interesting topic of discussion being his daughter, who had recently had her fifth birthday. Bourdain said that she had not enjoyed the party as he had only invited adults. He planned another birthday party for his daughter and other children her age the following week, Hagerty said.
Aside from meeting with Hagerty, Bourdain gave her the opportunity to review a restaurant that even her fiercest critics couldn’t scoff at -- Le Bernardin in New York City. At the restaurant, considered among the finest in New York, Bourdain made sure she got special treatment, complete with a tour of the kitchen.
“It was just beyond description,” she said. “It was a beautiful evening and a most beautiful restaurant.”
Bourdain was also instrumental in publishing Hagerty’s book, “Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 100 Reviews.”
The book is a compilation of 100 of the best of Hagerty’s Eatbeat columns from the Herald, and she said the book sold well. Bourdain called the book a “history of Hagerty,” and complimented her on her work ethic.
“The reviews I read were really refreshing and heartfelt,” Bourdain said of Hagerty in a 2012 interview with the website Eater.com. “I think she made us all on the coasts look small and bad, and I admire her for that.”
Hagerty attributes more than just the success of her book to Bourdain’s endorsement, saying appearances on National Public Radio and an Award for Excellence from USA Today were made possible largely because of him.
“A lot of it was because Anthony Bourdain put his stamp on what I was doing,” she said.
“He spoke his piece and he didn’t have to do that but I think that’s the way he was -- I think he spoke his piece and he didn’t worry what anyone else said or thought.”
Hagerty said she was made aware of Bourdain’s death Friday by her son, who sent her an obituary.
She said she felt sad to hear of the loss and that a good man had been taken too soon.
“We don’t ever know what’s going through people’s minds,” she said. “We think we know, but we don’t know. We certainly didn’t expect that would happen.”
However, she said Bourdain’s work will leave a lasting impact in the restaurant industry.
“He was different. He wasn’t the usual food writer. He was Anthony Bourdain,” Hagerty said.
“He’s a man who helped me a lot.”