Humor Fiction posted December 14, 2010

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Serving Up Some Faint Praise

by another jim

Reference Letter Contest Winner 

Sam & Ella's Trattoria
Attn: Mr. Perry Stahlsus
17 East 133rd Street
New York, NY 10036

December 15, 2010


I'm writing on behalf of a valued team member, Mr. Biff Wellington. Biff informed me today that he's seeking employment with your restaurant, and has asked that I send you a letter of reference. 

I understand you've been searching for a Head Chef, and that Biff has applied for the job. Coincidentally, that's the same position he currently holds in our organization. To be perfectly candid, I would love to retain his services; but in fairness to Biff, allow me to share with you a summary of his many fine qualities.

First, let me assure you that Biff is, indeed, a world-class chef. In fact, our local newspaper's food critic, Kurt Remarque, has written many columns over the years assessing his work. And while our restaurant has never attained Mr. Remarque's much coveted four-star rating, I truly believe the one-and-a-half stars we did receive each time provided Biff with a solid incentive to try harder.

To wit: In direct response to Mr. Remarque's criticism, Biff no longer uses canned peas in his tuna pasta surprise, having recently switched to frozen. Moreover, shortly after last month's column hit the newsstands, Biff immediately refrained from adding Hamburger Helper to his ground beef dishes, and stopped relying on wallpaper paste to thicken his sauces and gravies. I must, however, take umbrage with Mr. Remarque's harsh opinion that our pollo alla Cacciatora tasted like "an overcooked rubber chicken prepared with roadside weeds and drowned in cheap Muscatel." I happen to know first-hand that Biff never uses roadside weeds, at least not with poultry.

I'm keenly aware, too, of the bad press our restaurant received last year regarding the fire that leveled most of the downtown business district. The city's arson squad was quick to blame us for that inferno, attributing the cause to an improperly maintained deep fryer in our kitchen that, purely by accident, had been left on overnight. They also attempted to implicate Biff in that tragic incident by suggesting that (a) our deep fryer hadn't been inspected since 1996, (b) its maintenance was solely Biff's responsibility, and (c) it was Biff who closed up the restaurant on the night of the fire. Now, while I admit that both (a) and (b) are factually correct, I can assure you that Biff was not on duty on the night in question, as he had called in earlier that day claiming to be too hung over (again!) to work.

I might add at this juncture that Biff has proven to be a top-notch manager. He's a real "people person" who gets along well with his staff, especially with Marsha, our sous chef, who recently gave birth to twin girls. And though Biff's been accused of fathering those children, there was never definitive proof that he and Marsha were anything but very good friends. For the record? DNA paternity tests are hardly infallible. A 99.97% accuracy rate? Call me when it reaches 100%. Come to think of it, that's exactly what Biff told Marsha the morning he fired her. Of course, I can't speak for you, but I have to admire a man who embraces his principles with such vigor, despite a court-ordered garnishment docking his salary for child support.

Speaking of salary, I'm convinced that Biff remains in the culinary field not for the money, but for the pure joy of expressing his artistry. Despite all the pay raises he's demanded over the years, and the work stoppages he's organized to get them, he's never forgotten the real reason he chose this vocation: to create the very finest of unforgettable gourmet cuisine. For some time, in fact, our loyal patrons have frequently commented on his unusual use of what appear to be domesticated animals in his signature dishes. That he's been stalked and harassed with great regularity by members of our local PETA chapter, I believe, is a testament to the creative edginess he brings to the table (if you'll pardon the pun). Moreover, his propensity for employing cayenne pepper and fresh garlic in all of his recipes—including a raspberry custard flan that's to die for—have made Biff a gastronomic force to be reckoned with.

If you do decide to hire Biff, you'll be instantly impressed by the myriad talents he possesses. As my Head Chef, he has dutifully performed such tasks as menu planning, overseeing two dozen subordinates, creating complex dishes requiring expert knowledge of food preparation, and keeping our valued customers satisfied. I'm confident you'll find that Biff is capable of doing a stellar job in each of those areas! That he excels in what he does despite being plagued by a host of personal problems, most of which have been only slightly mitigated by endless twelve-step programs, interventions, and years of intensive psychotherapy... Well, I think that says more about Biff's perseverance than any letter of reference I can compose.

Besides, how can you not love a guy who never, ever allows his family life to take a back seat to his career? If I had a nickel for every time Biff blew off work to play catch with his son or dress-up with his daughter (or vice versa), or called in late because it was his turn to make burritos for breakfast, or couldn't get out of working Bingo at his fourth wife's church every Saturday—our busiest night—why, I could retire tomorrow.

In closing, Mr. Biff Wellington is a consummate professional who's demonstrated time and again that there are many more important things in life than a silly job. And as long as we can sidestep any discussion of his criminal record—including those two recent indictments for embezzlement and felony assault—I can recommend him without hesitation.

If you have any questions concerning this gentleman's impressive work history, please contact me at your earliest convenience.


Ivy Coe-Lye, Owner
Comfort Food Emporium

Reference Letter
Contest Winner


Word count: 997.

Contest Rules: Write a letter of reference that "...while legitimate and effective on the surface, has a secret mechanism that might help you achieve your objective, and keep this employee in your company."

A slightly over-the-top rendering for your reading pleasure. Fun contest, Yeltel! Thanks for organizing.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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