— After more than 30 years as a food critic, all it took was one review of the local Olive Garden to turn Marilyn Hagerty into an online celebrity.
An earnest assessment of the new chain restaurant in town by the 85-year-old reviewer at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald is the latest viral sensation. But Hagerty fails to see what all the fuss is about.
A 30-year veteran at The Grand Forks Herald, Hagerty reviewed the new local eatery March 7 in her regular Eatbeat column. Calling it “impressive,’’ she described the Olive Garden’s “Tuscan farmhouse style’’ and ordered the chicken alfredo.
Victory over snark
Her column sent food snobs into a frenzy. It has received nearly 700,000 pageviews after making its way around the Internet, generating headlines like Fark.com’s “Old Broad Goes Viral.’’
It also generated support against the backlash. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain tweeted to his nearly 800,000 followers: “Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included).’’
Hagerty had no idea at first that her review had gone viral. “I didn’t really know what that meant,’’ she told NBC’s Kevin Tibbles as the two dined at the now-famous Grand Forks Olive Garden. “Then the phone calls started. But I had to go to bridge club at 1 o’clock.’’
During their meal, Hagerty showed Tibbles her surreptitious style of taking notes while dining and indicated that she occasionally swipes a menu while doing a review.
“You do what you have to do,’’ she said.
In addition to the interview with Tibbles on Tuesday, “Marilyn Mania” also included a short segment Monday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.’’ Hagerty was interviewed from her home by actress Jane Lynch, filling in for the vacationing Morgan.
“It wasn’t much fun,’’ Hagerty told The Grand Forks Herald about the interview with Lynch. “I felt really good about the other (NBC) interview.’’
As for bloggers having a field day with her review, it barely merited a shrug from Hagerty.
“Sounds like dirty words,’’ she said about blogging. “Sounds like you’re talking bad. We all have different ideas of what we want to do with our time, don’t we? I’d rather be playing bridge or watching a basketball game than doing that.’’
Hagerty, who still writes five columns per week, was flown by the Grand Forks Herald to New York City on Tuesday to review a pair of five-star restaurants and, of course, the Olive Garden in Times Square. She is scheduled to have lunch with CNN’s Anderson Cooper at the Olive Garden and will be a guest on his show later in the week. The Herald also has fielded requests from several late-night talk shows to have Hagerty as a guest.
“I feel like I’ve been out for a long night of drinking and don’t remember what happened,’’ she told The Grand Forks Herald about the whirlwind since her column went viral.