Olive Garden Food Critic Receives Award
by Ashley Kringen, Reporter
October 04, 2012 10:30 PM
A Grand Forks woman with her own column became an Internet sensation earlier this year when her review of the city's new Olive Garden restaurant went viral.
Marilyn Hagerty, who is 86-years-old, works at the Grand Forks Herald, and she's still writing five columns a week.
On Thursday at the University of South Dakota, she was presented the 2012 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media, to honor her career.
An interesting fact is that six decades ago, Hagerty went to USD with Neuharth, the founder of USA Today and presenter of her award.
Hagerty remained humble, bubbly and full of personality while she talked about what this award means to her.
"It's an overwhelming honor," said Hagerty.
Nearly eight months ago, on March 7th, it was just like any other workday for Marilyn Hagerty.
She was writing a food review for her "Eatbeat," column in the Grand Forks Herald newspaper and the article just happened to be about the newest hot spot in town, the Olive Garden.
"In Grand Forks that was pretty big news. We've been waiting for that Olive Garden for years, there have been rumors," said Hagerty.
She called it an innocent review with a little bit of flair, describing the ambience, service and how the chicken alfredo was "warm and comforting on a cold day."
"I tried to tell people what it tasted like, what it cost and what the place was like and how the service was," said Hagerty.
Soon after her review printed in the paper, some critics were called it "pathetic," and "weird,” while others found it humorous and cute.
The article instantly went viral, but Hagerty was oblivious to the national attention she was getting that day, she had other plans.
"I don't have time for all this crap, I've got to go to bridge club," said Hagerty.
After some critics tore her review apart, people from all over the country flooded her inbox with words of support, including well-known food personality Anthony Bourdain.
Al Neuharth said most of his awards go to journalists who have drawn national interest and Hagerty did just that.
"If you want to have a following, you have to be interesting," said Neuharth.
For Hagerty, she appreciates the millions of people, who have read her article, but the support from her friends and family has been the most rewarding.
"The most fun is the support that I've had my friends in Grand Forks and people who read the Hearald and the nice notes I get from little towns all around Grand Forks," said Hagerty.
She also said she happily accepted an invitation from host of Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson Cooper, to go to Olive Garden soon.
Hagerty said the award represents all journalists working in a medium sized market, she says plans to write for the Grand Forks Herald until they let her go.