Chef rises above adversity in ‘Charged’
Chef Eduardo Garcia will never forget that night at the Arlington Theatre.
“I remembered being floored by the standing ovation, and I recall the early comments on the very first big day of being in your town were, ‘Bravo, well done, way to go,’ ” Mr. Garcia, 39, told the News-Press by phone from his home in Bozeman, Mont.
Mr. Garcia was at the theater in February 2017 during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the world premiere of “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story.” The documentary covers his perseverance after he was injured by an electrical shock and half of his left arm was amputated.
Although Mr. Garcia won’t be back in town, the film will screen again Oct. 8 at the West Wind Drive-in, 907 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta. The gate will open at 6 p.m., followed by the movie at 7.
The screening is sponsored by the Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.
Immediately after the documentary, the foundation will show a previously unseen discussion with Mr. Garcia.
“Over time, the feedback (to ‘Charged,’ available on various streaming services) has grown,” the chef and motivational speaker told the News-Press. “People have shared the impact the film has had on them. People end up seeing some aspect of their life or someone in their life.
“It covers a broad range of human stories and human emotion,” Mr. Garcia said. “And of course, we made the film to help other people and inspire people going through challenges to believe in their abilities to break through, to succeed.”
Does he hear from other amputees?
“Every day,” he said.
“When you have the ability to witness someone else’s transformation, it can help one believe in one’s journey,” even if the path ahead isn’t clear, he said. “Being able to witness someone else’s journey can be incredibly empowering.”
Mr. Garcia, a Van Nuys native, moved with his single mother, Kathie Garcia, in 1986 to Corwin Springs, Mont. He has loved to cook since age 15, flipping burgers and throwing pizzas.
After graduating from Park High School in 1999 in Livingston, Mont., he earned his associate’s degree in 2000 at the Art Institute in Seattle. After working in Seattle, he set sail for the high seas as a private chef on luxury yachts. That led him to fine food experiences around the world.
As a young man, Mr. Garcia discovered the hidden power of food.
“I was 25 when a friend and co-worker experienced a death in her family,” he recalled. “I remembered the grief she felt.
“I realized I could cook her favorite foods — breakfast, lunch, dinner,” he said. “I was able to see her spirit and spark come back. I realized food had this whole relationship with our minds, our bodies, our souls.
“It not only satisfies our desires and fills our bellies. It speaks to our soul.”
In 2010, he started Montana Mex, which makes organic and preservative-free condiments.
The next year was a turning point in his life.
On Oct. 9, 2011, Mr. Garcia was hunting in southwest Montana when he came across a bear carcass. He received a shock from a 2,400-volt power line hidden under the animal and was knocked unconscious.
Severely burned and badly injured, Mr. Garcia walked three miles to the nearest road for help. He ended up being airlifted to the University of Utah, where doctors found they had to amputate half of his left arm.
Mr. Garcia underwent rehabilitation at the university and elsewhere.
“I had tremendous support from my caregivers, my family, my friends,” he said. “I think that right out of the gate, that’s without question a tremendous must for recovery, knowing that you’re supported.”
Mr. Garcia said he learned the importance of team work during his rehabilitation, which he noted is “not a one-person gig.”
“I was working with rehabilitation specialists,” he said.
And Mr. Garcia looked for inspiration.
“I looked up one-armed chefs,” Mr. Garcia said. “I started searching the internet for other chefs missing limbs, and there are others out there.
“I discovered individuals who had gone through a pretty horrendous moment but were able to make the most of it as sources of inspiration,” he said.
Mr. Garcia, who uses a prosthetic left arm with a hook, said he found ways to adapt and remains successful in the kitchen.
“I’m the same old me,” Mr. Garcia said. “Most of my friends and family would vouch for the fact that I’m still as capable, if not more capable, than before.
“I have found new ways to approach my life.”