George's Fine Steaks in New Ulm, Minn. is known for its fantastic food, but success at the restaurant is actually a team effort because the owner and head chef can't taste or smell anything after a traumatic brain injury 15 years ago.
George Cottom is the kind of guy everyone likes, but most customers don't know he was in a car crash in California that left him with that brain injury, doctors not knowing if he would live or die. He survived, but he lost his ability to taste and smell -- a big challenge when you're in the restaurant business. The family left California and moved home to Minnesota.
"He said, 'I think I'm going to open a restaurant.' I thought oh, Lord," his wife Karen Cottom said.Meanwhile, George relied on what he knew: How to make good food.
"It's all my own stuff. I've either adapted my own recipes I've come across or things I've done before," he said.
His old recipes got him started, but since he could only enjoy texture, he had to have a team of tasters when he wanted to add new items. To help out, there's Jimmy in the kitchen, the wait staff, and of course, his wife.
"I want to know what this place smells like, period. I don't know if it smells musty and old, I don't know if it smells homey and good, but I trust others that it does," Cottom said.
Even the things most of us would rather not smell, he actually misses (sort of).
"When you're running a restaurant and you walk into a bathroom, you want to know what it smells like in there," he said.
George's Fine Steaks has been successful for 13 years. He says he surrounded himself with some pretty terrific people to make it all work. However, he also gave himself no choice but to succeed and said all brain injury patients have to believe in themselves.
Cottom and his wife work with the Minnesota Brain Injury Force. For more information on upcoming fundraisers, click here: http://mnbif.com/