Life After Olive Garden: Marilyn Hagerty Talks Television

                                                                                  (Image credit: Forum Communications)

After her restaurant review of an Olive Garden in her North Dakota hometown went viral, and after the whirlwind media tour of New York City that followed, you'd think Marilyn Hagerty would have television offers lined up around the block.

"I haven't had any phone calls.  I've been getting some crank calls in the middle of the night and it's not from a local number.  But that's about the only thing," said Hagerty, the 85-year-old reviewer for the Grand Forks Herald.

Hagerty spent last week in New York City doing interviews with Anderson Cooper and former New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton. She ate at such highly acclaimed restaurants as Dovetail and Le Bernardin.

Even though it was the fourth or fifth time she'd visited the city, she said, "It was one of the best experiences of my whole life."

Some people suggested Hagerty would be perfect for television, but she said she hasn't considered the possibility. "I have no aspirations and I don't think I'm so good on TV, " she said.   "I've had a few people suggest that they might want me to do some writing for them."

The Olive Garden offered her and The Herald staff a free meal, which Hagerty declined, but hasn't offered her a spokesperson position just yet.

"I'm not in this for money.  I'm not in this for commercial reasons.  I'm a reporter and I take pride in being a news reporter.  I can't see why I would do anything different," she said.

On her New York trip, Hagerty never missed a deadline for The Herald. She writes five columns a week for the paper on a variety of subjects.

"I take great pride in never missing a deadline.  When I go on vacation I write in advance.  I'm on a freelance basis and I never miss a deadline.  I just sent my EatBeat review of Le Bernardin down to The Herald."

Hagerty said she enjoyed her experience at Le Bernardin as well as their great sommelier.  "He made the evening," she said. She described trying octopus for the first time: "pretty good with a great wine."

Hagerty's EatBeat column went viral two weeks ago, after her review of The Olive Garden got national attention.  There were some cruel comments, but she said they "egg me on."  She said she received over 400 emails "saying very kind things.  I could tell that people are basically good, they don't like to see anyone treated that way."

Hagerty doesn't spend much time on social networking sites, even though her Olive Garden review received 33,000 Facebook likes.  "It's a big waste of time," she said. "I belong to four bridge clubs. I go to every basketball game at the University of North Dakota.  I have a scholarship every year for one player- around $500.  Right now it's a girl from Bismarck, N.D.  I call her 'my girl' and I go and cheer for her."

Hagerty said she has accepted her newfound fame:  "This is the craziest thing that's ever happened. I might as well sit back and enjoy it."