11/28/2013 at 09:00 AM EST
It was a motionless baby bear that caught Eduardo Garcia's attention during a hike in the Montana backcountry in 2011. Curious, Garcia nudged the animal with his knife and realized too late that the bear was covering a live power line that carried 2,400 volts.
"There is no way to describe the warm symphony of noise that fills your body when being electrocuted," he says. "The next thing I remember was looking down at my left hand and seeing a charred mess."
The classically trained chef – luckily a right-handed one – then spent 48 days recovering in a burn trauma unit, wondering what was next for his career.
"I was scared, but I was set on learning how to survive," says Garcia, 32, who traveled the world as a personal chef on private yachts before opening Montana Mex
, a Mexican food company in Bozeman, Mont. "The optimistic part of me was saying, 'You can do it.' "