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Aug 19, 2013 11:14 AM

Bourdain writes the forward for Marilyn Hagerty's new book

Who's Marilyn Hagerty, you ask?

The viral sensation from last year whose review of the Olive Garden coming to Grand Forks, Minnesota, shot her into the limelight. And garnered her appearances on Anderson Cooper and The Today Show and eat dinner at Le Bernadin.

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  1. I read the forward and I know he means well - but perhaps because it's Bouradin, I can't help to sense a touch of backhanded snark. Not necessarily at Marilyn Hagerty, but more so being able to give a stink eye at "urban foodies".

    I am probably being either a touch over sensitive or taking too much about what I know of Bourdain's writing/tv persona and applying it to this forward. But this paragraph at the end - "This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating—still ARE eating—in much of America. As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can—while hurting no one." - feels like more of a scolding to foodies.

    Did people say she was hurting anyone by writing a good review of Olive Garden? Not to mention, that as this is a collection of reviews of restaurants in Grand Forks - how useful is it to most potential readers? Or is it just being sold anyways as straight up kitsch to end up on some Brooklyn coffee table?

    Part of my reaction to this is definitely informed by having a very specific elationship with Anthony Bourdain the Food Celebrity. He reputation was made off of being snarky, and so reading this from him I can't entirely dismiss that. Had someone like Mario Battali written the forward to the book, I definitely would be coming at it differently.

    12 Replies
    1. re: cresyd

      Hurting anyone? Well, some of the initial comments on Eater when they first talked about Marilyn were downright cruel and nasty towards her and her reviews. So yes, he's giving the stink eye to urban foodies, as he's done with so many people who yell "Ewwww, gross!" at some of the things he's eaten overseas in the countries he's visited. Yes, his rep was made on snark.

      But he also realizes that not everyone has the opportunity to eat the way he does - and he tries to let other know that who pretend to be "in the know." Basic food is and can be good food. I think that's part of what he's saying.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        I think he's kind of.....tied himself into a knot with his views on what is and what is not bad in the food world. He's come out raging against Rachael Ray for endorcing Dunkin Donuts and Paula Deen for her recipes as essentially being dangerous.

        So now he's saying that Olive Garden counts as a "basic food" of Grand Rapids - and shouldn't be "ew grossed" - but Rachael on Dunkin Donuts is like "endorsing crack for kids". His points on both Deen and Ray come more from the point of how both of them have a lot of money and therefore they shouldn't continue to endorce unhealthy living in a way that makes them richer.

        I get the snark going to foodies in that context....but there's something about it that remains - really off putting. Paula Deen (according to Bourdain) was the "worst, most dangerous person in America" for continuing to present high fat/calorie recipes after she was diagnosed with diabetes. But how different are her recipes compared to a positive review of the Olive Garden or a diner serving only Sysco foods? Dunkin Donuts is crack, but the Olive Garden is a beautiful welcome to Grand Rapids. It's beginning to feel too much like he picks and chooses what's evil and when it's evil.

        As a restaurant chef who built himself upon steak frites, and most likely rewarding customers who'd come to Les Halles 2-4 times a week versus a customer who'd eat there once a month as part of a balanced diet - this has always felt hypocritical to me. But now he's distinguishing "lowly interior America" as being a place to value chains like the Olive Garden, however if declasse cooks who he doesn't admire put out fatty recipes or support other chains - they're evil??

        According to Bourdain a number of food celebrities making money are evil sell outs, food "demigods" (Alan Richman, Alice Waters, and Alain Ducasse) deserve disdain, and vegans/vegetarians are rude to nonWestern countries while Americans eat too much meat - BUT - this deserves his praise. He's been too harsh to too much of the food establishment for this not to feel condescending.

        I'm not saying that Marilyn deserved the initial snark, but Bourdain is the wrong man to be standing up talking about a book that "kills snark". I get that Bourdain published the book, but he should have quietly supported the publishing and gotten someone else to write the forward.

        1. re: cresyd

          Bourdain has a deal with Ecco Books, the publisher. That's why he wrote the forward.

          1. re: nikkihwood

            I get that he's the publisher - but as the published, I'd have respected him more if he showed some self awareness of his public persona and asked someone else to write the forward.

            1. re: cresyd

              i think he had the self awareness to realize if he wrote the forward it would help sell books.

              1. re: cresyd

                I think Bourdain's fully self-aware of his public persona. He's selling books. If you feel he's being hypocritical in writing what he wrote for the forward, so be it.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Oops to all of us. Foreword. Foreward. Foreward. Yes, this did wake me up early in the morning.

                  I believe that part of the Ecco deal is that Bourdain participates as he wishes. Which probably led to this.

                  And in this discussion, to each her/his own. I do not see the snark. I am looking forward [!] to reading the book.

                  1. re: nikkihwood

                    Yikes. I can't believe I missed that, nikki! LOL Yes, "foreward".

                    Weird. I felt it was wrong but my brain insisted it was correct.

            2. re: cresyd

              "According to Bourdain a number of food celebrities making money are evil sell outs, food "demigods" (Alan Richman, Alice Waters, and Alain Ducasse) deserve disdain, and vegans/vegetarians are rude to nonWestern countries while Americans eat too much meat - BUT - this deserves his praise. He's been too harsh to too much of the food establishment for this not to feel condescending. "

              I think you are right. Bourdain, once the "bad boy" of the food business in writing and in the great "No Reservations" is guilty of his own sellout. "The Taste" being the proof.

              Bourdain, along with others, are "food snobs". That's fine--but to be snarky and condescending to others--well, it just isn't right.

              I can honestly say that in my family, we don't go to many chain restaurants-once in a while, yeah, but we save our restaurant dining for special occasions and go to fine dining establishments. For those who love chains and the like--that's fine. whatever rocks your boat and whatever gets you out of the house and talking and interacting at a table--it's great!

              Bourdain has turned into the food celebs he hates.

              1. re: jarona

                Yeah - I just think his problem is that he's divided the food world into who he feels are "authentic", "little guys", and "sell outs". And it's clearly only based on his own internal logic.

                I am no Paula Deen enthusiast - but I think it's pretty lazy to rant and rave about how she's the worst person in America (for making a lot of money selling unhealthy recipes), but then not doing anything regarding Grandma at the end of the road making her own (equally) unhealthy recipes to serve. If he wants to make a deal out of America/American kids eating healthier, he's not exactly providing any serious insight on how to do it. Paula Deen's recipes, Rachael Ray with Dunkin - that's all bad - but his No Reservations trip to Cleveland was hardly a trip of moderation and balanced eating.

                At the end of the day I feel like he has an idea of what is "too rich" anyone above that line is worthy of yelling at. But everyone else is embracing their own food cultures and traditions. I actually think he's at his worst with his comments about Guy Fieri. Whatever you want to say about Guy's personality, Diners Drive-ins and Dives visits a lot of places that I think Bourdain would want to visit. Maybe it's not filmed to Bourdain's lofty standards - but it comes across like someone who sells luxury cars scoffing at someone who sells non-luxury cars.

                Ah well. I grew up really enjoying his snark and bad boyness - but I'm clearly done with it. He can enjoy his The Taste money and feelings of self righteousness without me.

                  1. re: cresyd

                    i think he's divided the food world into things he likes, and things he doesn't like.
                    just like the rest of us.
                    so i don't think it's a problem at all.

                    as far as self righteousness goes, i don't see it in bourdain any more than i do in anyone who has an opinion about anything.

          2. Two points:

            1. I read her original review of Olive Garden when the thing went national/viral, and knowing the ethics of midwestern/plains folk, it was pretty clear that she was subtly downgrading the place by actually avoiding direct commentary on the foods and talking more about setting. For those that know to read her aright, it was clear that she was no huge fan of the food.

            2. Not to be pedantic, but I used to live in Grand Forks (until 1988): it's in North Dakota, with Minnesota across the Red River. Just to set the record straight, FWIW.