Chef Eduardo Garcia inspires with his “Montana Mex” style of cooking, combining the fresh ingredients of the West with the dishes of his Mexican heritage. But he inspires equally for the way he’s handled adversity, especially the loss of his hand in 2011. While out bow-hunting in the Montana woods, Garcia came across the body of an apparently lifeless bear cub and investigated by prodding it with the knife in his hand. In a flash, he was electrocuted by 2400 volts of a buried live electrical wire, which had also killed the bear. His hand could not be saved and was amputated and replaced with a high-tech bionic hand, controlled by Garcia’s own muscles. Meanwhile, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent chemotherapy while he was simultaneously recovering from his hand injury.

This all happened amid Garcia’s development of his Montana Mex line of sauces and seasonings, and after more than a decade cooking as a personal chef in the yachting industry. Born in the Los Angeles area and then growing up in a commune in Montana, Garcia had jumped into restaurant work as a teen and went on to graduate from the culinary program at the Art Institute of Seattle. It was a hard-knocks life, as the young cook had little money to support himself, but he found a position at Japanese restaurant Saito’s, rolling sushi. And then came the yachting years.

“With such a severe injury, I had to put my whole life on pause and come to terms with it. So I took it head on. I wasn’t going to let it sink my ship,” Garcia has said. He worked his way back to cooking and traded his prosthetic hand for a bionic hook, which better withstood the rigors of the kitchen. Along with his older brother, sister, and a friend he went on to launch Montana Mex. He also became a motivational speaker, sharing his story and positive energy with others, and even making a documentary, Charged, about the experience. No wonder he’s been dubbed the Bionic Chef.