Born in Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, Chef Back brings a sense of adventure and boundless creativity to his culinary creations. Following the success of Kumi Japanese Restaurant + Bar at Mandalay Bay and the famed Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge at Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, he opened Akira Back New Delhi and Akira Back Jakarta in 2014, featuring his inventive and enticing menus that embody classic Japanese cuisine and always feature innovative dishes that use the freshest ingredients from the world’s top purveyors.
Before taking his turn in the kitchen, Back spent his early years as a professional snowboarder in Colorado, appearing in extreme movies and garnering praise from the sport’s top trade publications. During this time, Back began working at local restaurants to supplement his income as an extreme sports athlete. After seven years on the pro-snowboarding circuit, he realized that he felt the same thrill in the kitchen as he did on his board, shaping his decision to pursue a full-time culinary career.
Back went on to study at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute in Colorado. In 1993, he began working at Kenichi in Aspen as Sushi Prep Cook and was later recruited to Kenichi in Austin, Texas and then in Kona, Hawaii, where he worked as the Opening Chef.
Combining his passions for adventure, travel and culinary exploration, he toured extensively throughout Japan and Europe, studying under top celebrity chefs and industry leaders, including Masaharu Morimoto and Brian Nagao. It was during this period that he learned the value of using rare and exotic ingredients. In 2003, Back returned to Aspen to lead the kitchen as Executive Chef of Nobu Matsuhisa’s namesake restaurant.
Throughout his illustrious career, he has been awarded the title of “Rising Star” by Restaurant Hospitality (2008) and has had the distinct honor of hosting the prestigious James Beard House dinners (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Since opening Yellowtail Restaurant & Lounge in 2008, he has been named “Best Chef in Las Vegas” by Las Vegas Weekly. Back has also participated in some of the culinary world’s most prestigious events, including Aspen Food & Wine Festival, Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival and Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d.
In addition to these top accolades, Back has had extensive broadcast experience, appearing on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” where he battled Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Back can also be seen on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” The Cooking Channel’s “United Tastes of America,” as well as KBS’ “Success Mentor” which airs in Korea.