When you walk into chef Eduardo Garcia’s kitchen in Montana, you may witness him sticking his arm into a pot of boiling water. Don’t be alarmed though, it’s a prosthetic.
Garcia lost his left arm in a hunting accident two years ago after he was electrocuted by a 2,400 volt wire. After spending eight months in the hospital recovering from the double-whammy of an amputation and cancer that was diagnosed while recovering from the initial injury, Garcia emerged whole and with a new Bluetooth-operated prosthetic arm that has allowed him to continue his career as a private chef and the head of Montana Mex Foods — which produces a high-end line of Mexican-flavored salts and seasonings.
It’s been a long road, Garcia told The Daily Meal, but he never once believed that he’d have to give up his career as a chef.
“The kitchen is a real animal, and it takes a certain person who can handle that environment with one arm or two,” said Garcia. “I remember the first cooking gig I had after my injury where just holding a knife in my hand was difficult because my muscles were weak. I certainly don’t throw pizzas anymore, but I have learned to lean on the great team around me and focus on my passion for food.”
Garcia had to teach himself small baby steps at a time, which involved quite a lot of pan-dropping and asking for help, he said. Some of the finer motor skills like chopping and dicing also took a while to master but when it comes to peeling a hard-boiled egg, he’s not sure if he will ever be able to do again.
Garcia has not let his accident get in the way of his career. Montana Mex, which had previously only been sold locally, will now be expanding nationally with a brand-new line of professional and home chef-level seasoning salts.
“It’s weird because I can’t feel something slipping out of my grasp, but you get used to it,” he said. “You laugh about it. Life rolls on.”
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi