The next morning, every Smurf was again gathered around the breakfast table. "Now what's smurfing up the kitchen crew this morning?" Hefty asked.
"Maybe the muffins they're going to serve again are smurfing a little longer to bake," Handy said.
"This current obsession with muffins is smurfing to get a little ridiculous, if you ask me," Brainy said.
"I'd say we start smurfing our own breakfast if they can't smurf us something better," Hefty said.
"Bouncing bunnies, Pappy Smurf, where's Empath?" Sassette asked.
"I'm sure that he's in the kitchen right now, helping the crew making the breakfast this morning," Papa Smurf said.
"Empath making breakfast?" Snappy said in disbelief. "Well, I'd sure like to smurf that for myself."
"Yeah, this is the first time I ever heard of Empath smurfing up breakfast for anyone," Slouchy said.
Then soon came Empath from within the kitchen, carrying a big serving tray of something that smelled delicious. "Here it is, my fellow Smurfs...your breakfast is served," he announced as he placed the serving tray on the table and lifted the lid.
Every Smurf was surprised to see what was on the menu this morning. "Pancakes!" they all said in unison.
"And that's not the only thing that's on the menu this morning," Empath said as Biscotti, Culinary, Gelato, and Vino carried out other trays that had side dishes of sausages and home fries as well as fresh pitchers of orange juice.
"Yummy!" they all said in unison as they gathered around and took as much as they wanted from the serving trays and started eating.
"Mmmm...not bad for a star-faced showoff," Hefty said after he took a bite.
"Yeah, this breakfast is even better than what Greedy makes in the morning," Handy said.
"I...love this breakfast," Grouchy said after taking a bite.
"And here is your daily meal, Polaris...hopefully made just the way that you like it," Empath said, producing a bowl of nutrient paste to his friend sitting next to Smurfette.
Polaris took a taste of the nutrient taste. "It is...very satisfactory, Empath. This one commends your efforts in making it."
"Scampering squirrels, Empath, why are you all dressed in white with a chef's hat, an apron, and no shirt, Empath?" Sassette asked as she noticed what Empath was wearing.
"Oh...well, this smurf decided that it would be best to look the part of the village chef while this smurf is taking over as the head chef in the kitchen, Sassette," Empath said.
"You...a head chef?" Snappy exclaimed. "Smurf out of here!"
"Wow, you must really be smurfing this job rather seriously, Empath," Nat said.
"Well, I think you look rather handsome as the new head chef of the village," Smurfette said.
"This job is only temporary for Empath while Greedy is recovering in his house, my little Smurflings," Papa Smurf said. "In time, he will be back to smurfing his own duties while Greedy will smurf back in the kitchen."
"If Empath keeps smurfing food like this, who knows if we would want Greedy back in the kitchen?" Snappy said.
"That's if Empath can keep smurfing us great meals like this, Snappy," Slouchy said.
"Just wait until lunch time, my fellow Smurflings," Empath said. "Everyone here will be in for a real treat."
"My compliments certainly go to the new village chef, my dearest brother Empath, for smurfing us this wonderful breakfast treat," Brainy said.
"Three cheers for Chez Empath," Painter shouted. And everybody around the tables clapped and cheered as Empath humbly accepted the praise.
Meanwhile, his kitchen workers watched from a distance. "Well, will you smurf at that!" Biscotti said. "We smurf all the hard work under his direction, and he smurfs all the praise for it!"
"We would be smurfing the same old breakfast if it wasn't for him, Biscotti," Culinary said.
"Yeah, but is Empath going to let the whole village know that we were the ones who smurfed up this breakfast for the other Smurfs?" Gelato asked.
"Who knows?" Vino answered. "I'm just glad that he's smurfing in the kitchen with us."
"But who knows how long before we would want Greedy smurfing back with us?" Culinary asked.
Empath proved again his culinary skills when he prepared for his fellow Smurfs a lunch of a three-bean salad, followed by a dinner of lasagna with garlic bread that same night. He watched as his fellow Smurfs ate heartily the food that was set before them and seemed satisfied with the quality and variety he provided for them day after day and meal after meal. He was glad to see his fellow Smurfs enjoy themselves and be happy for the work that he put into making the meals with his kitchen crew.
However, the work within the kitchen itself proved to be challenging, as Empath had to not only direct his fellow kitchen helpers to their appointed tasks, but also had to deal with their personalities and their constant instructions on how Greedy would prepare things. Empath also spent a lot of time going out into the forest to gather ingredients that were necessary for the meals, and inspected everything that Farmer and Miller brought into the kitchen from the fields to make sure they were of satisfactory quality. He wanted to make sure that his fellow Smurfs ate nothing but the best food, even though he knew that he was only acting as the temporary head chef and would eventually give up the role to Greedy when he was feeling better again.
One night, Empath entered Tapper's tavern wearing his normal clothes and asked his fellow Smurf for a glass of sarsaparilla ale while he brought in a crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper to work on.
"You seem to smurf that look of worry, as if the job of being the head chef is starting to smurf to you, my fellow Empath," Tapper observed.
"This smurf never realized how much work it is to always come up with new things on the menu for the Smurfs to eat when this smurf isn't used to constantly working in the kitchen in Greedy's role, Tapper," Empath said.
"You must be ready to smurf over the apron to Greedy when he's up and smurfing on his feet," Tapper said. "By the way, how is he smurfing today?"
"His health has been improving, Tapper, thanks to the constant care of Papa Smurf and Dabbler," Empath said. "Not to mention Culinary's vegetable soup, which seems to be giving him the nutrients that he needs."
"Aye, what would we do without Culinary and his vegetable soup, Empath?" Tapper said. "I'm sure Greedy can smurf up a vegetable soup that's just as good, but somehow I prefer it being smurfed from Culinary himself."
"They're starting to get jealous that this smurf is taking all the credit for their hard work, even though this smurf has been working just as hard as they were in the kitchen," Empath said.
"They're simply not used to working with you in the kitchen, Empath," Tapper said. "Greedy's the one that they have a better rapport with, since they literally grew up smurfing in the kitchen together with their Papa and Mama Smurfs."
"This smurf is sensing that they're missing him so much, even though the only problem they seem to have with this smurf is that this smurf isn't giving them much more than the time of day," Empath said.
"You're trying your best to make yourself and the kitchen crew feel like they're part of a team together, aren't you?" Tapper asked.
"That's what this smurf has been trained to do as the assistant leader, and this smurf even had to step in and do things that this smurf sees them doing wrong...at least how this smurf sees it," Empath said.
"It's not always that they smurf things wrong, but rather that they smurf things different, and so do you, Empath," Tapper said. "You shouldn't let the little things in your job bother you so much. If you're always striving to make everybody happy by the things that you smurf, it's likely that you'll make nobody happy in the long run, including yourself."
"It's just so much to think about now, I can't even put any time into thinking about things like trying to fill in this crossword puzzle," Empath said as he looked down at his newspaper and tried to think about the words from the clues given, only to come up with nothing.
"At least concentrate on the task that's been smurfed before you, Empath, and before long you'll be back to enjoying a relaxing time smurfing in words," Tapper said, smiling.
"This smurf will try to accomplish that, Tapper," Empath said as he took a sip of his sarsaparilla ale.
One afternoon after lunch, Hefty paid a visit to Papa Smurf's laboratory to talk to him alone.
"So how's work smurfing on at the Smurf River Bridge today, Hefty?" Papa Smurf asked.
"It's been smurfing really great, since I smurfed Handy in charge of it, but that's not what I came to you for, Papa Smurf," Hefty said. "It's Empath that I'm really concerned about."
"Oh?" Papa Smurf said. "I haven't heard any Smurf complain about the meals he's been smurfing in the kitchen."
"Nobody has any complaints about him, far as I know," Hefty said. "But for him to give up smurfing as the assistant counselor just to smurf as the village chef? It seems like we're condemning him to waste his talents on something Greedy's kitchen workers can smurf for themselves."
"Empath chose to smurf this task for Greedy, Hefty," Papa Smurf said. "I think that we should all be grateful for him to accept smurfing that role when there's no other Smurf qualified to smurf that."
"In the meantime, who are the Smurfs like Lazy, Nabby, and Grouchy turning to for their personal problems?" Hefty said. "I'm not smurfed out to be a counselor, and even Tapper admits that he wouldn't be able to smurf that kind of job the way that Empath has been smurfing it."
"Empath's absence from the role of assistant counselor does mean that I have to smurf on those cases when I would rather be busy smurfing experiments in my laboratory, Hefty," Papa Smurf said. "I share your concerns, but I think that we can smurf by just fine without Empath in that role for now."
"I just hope for Empath's sake that his new job isn't going to be a permanent one," Hefty said. "Not that I don't enjoy the food that he's been smurfing us lately."
"When Greedy returns to his job, I believe we will be all that much happier for it," Papa Smurf said.
After another night of working in the kitchen, Empath found himself paying a visit to Smurfette around the time that she was preparing for an evening by herself.
"Great Smurfness, Empath, you seem to be smurfing really exhausted," Smurfette commented as she saw him at her door. "What happened to you today?"
"We were having quite a struggle trying to get dinner ready on time when a lot of things that could go wrong in the kitchen did go wrong...much of which this smurf doesn't feel in a mood to talk about," Empath said.
"That bad, huh?" Smurfette said. "Sure I can't do anything that will help you relax or something?"
"I just need someplace to relax and not think about what this smurf had to deal with in the kitchen," Empath said.
Smurfette understood what Empath wanted. "Why don't you smurf on my couch and just smurf up your feet? If anybody's calling for you, I will just tell them that you're not available."
Empath nodded. "This smurf appreciates it, Smurfette." He went over to Smurfette's couch and laid himself down upon it, letting out a huge sigh of relief.
"It must be really tough waiting for the day that Greedy will be back smurfing in his kitchen," Smurfette said as she sat herself by Empath's head on the couch.
"That seems like an understatement, Smurfette," Empath said. "Sometimes it feels like this smurf may end up a prisoner in our village's kitchen, doing nothing else but making other Smurfs happy with this smurf's cooking."
"I wonder if that's how Greedy feels sometimes when he has to smurf a hundred Smurfs a day three times a day with his meals," Smurfette said.
"This smurf senses that's what he feels, but this smurf also knows that he wouldn't give up his job for anything in the world, Smurfette," Empath said.
"Sometimes I do feel tempted to have Greedy smurf over to provide a meal for me and my fellow Smurfs," Smurfette said. "Do you think I'm being selfish for wanting to smurf that?"
"If that's how you feel, Smurfette, then we would all be guilty of that same feeling," Empath said.
"I just wouldn't want to see Greedy go on strike because nobody appreciates his cooking anymore, Empath," Smurfette said.
"This smurf wouldn't want to see any of his kitchen helpers follow suit and decide that they've had enough of providing meals with no appreciation whatsoever," Empath said.
"But would you go on strike if that's what happens to you, Empath?" Smurfette asked.
"This smurf is only glad that Greedy will be back in the kitchen soon, Smurfette," Empath said. "If anybody has a complaint about the food at that point, Greedy will be the one who will deal with it."
Empath returned to his own house to see that Polaris Psyche was still awake and reading his book. "This one was assuming that you would have been in your residence during your resting period at this time, fellow Empath," Polaris commented.
"Sorry about that, Polaris," Empath said. "This smurf had spent some time relaxing at Smurfette's house after a hard day's work."
"This one will not inquire of your private interactions with Smurfette, Empath," Polaris said. "However, this one is becoming concerned of your mental state handling the job that you have accepted in Greedy's place."
"This smurf has been so consumed with all the little things going on in the kitchen, about what to cook and bake, how to slice and dice things, what temperature to set the oven at, and things that just happen to break down for no reason at all," Empath said.
"This one senses that you will not be able to leave this job as easily as you have hoped to do once Greedy's health has been restored to where he is able to resume his duties," Polaris said.
"You think I'm going to end up a prisoner in the kitchen?" Empath asked.
"That is simply what this one is sensing from you right now, Empath," Polaris said. "Besides that, this one is sensing that the accolades you have once enjoyed receiving for your culinary efforts will no longer be present if indeed the job that you are currently occupying becomes a permanent position."
"This smurf has already sensed from the other Smurfs that they have gotten so used to the quality of this smurf's meals that it has become a routine thing, Polaris," Empath said. "But that won't be a problem anymore once Greedy returns to the job that he loves doing."
"Your faith in your optimism seems admirable, even if you do not feel totally optimistic about the situation at hand," Polaris said. "In any case, this one will allow you to rest in peace without any further interruptions."
"Rest well, Polaris...this smurf will see you in the morning," Empath said as he yawned and headed upstairs to his bedroom.
He looked at himself in the mirror, again wearing the chef's hat, and saw that he didn't look anywhere as happy as he did when he first looked forward to doing the job. He didn't like the idea of having to wake up to wearing the same clothes day after day, but he knew that it was going to be ending soon.
He got into his bed and laid there looking at the ceiling, trying to empty his mind of every kind of thought until he fell asleep.