Not many people can say they used to snowboard professionally or be identified as a “rising star ” chef in the United States. Akira Back, born in Korea, moved to Colorado at a young age and became a professional snowboarder. He was featured in some of the top snowboarding magazines such as Transworld and Snowboarder and also earned prominent endorsements with companies such as Etines.
As a professional snowboarder, Akira also spent time cooking in local Aspen restaurants, where he realized his passion for food was equal if not greater than snowboarding. After a strong 7 year career in snowboarding, Akira decided to attend culinary school and began working for some of the best Japanese restaurants in the world, include Chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Masaharu Morimoto.
Akira has been widely recognized for his food by the culinary world including being named one of the “Rising Stars” by Restaurant Hospitality magazine. As the Executive Chef for Nobu Matsuhisa’s namesake restaurant in Aspen, he became even more popular for his unique style and precision. He has prepared meals for many celebrities and important figures such as Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Paris Hilton and former President Bill Clinton. Currently, he is the Executive Chef of Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, where Grammy Award winner Taylor Swift has called the meal that Chef Akira Back prepared “the best of her life”. Akira has also been featured on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, taking on Bobby Flay in a spinach battle. (see battle video below)
Less than a month ago, we had the pleasure of trying out Chef Akira’s current restaurant to taste and talk about his food.
The food was a pleasant surprise especially for a Korean American. Although the restaurant is technically called a Japanese restaurant and you can order sushi, what makes this restaurant good is the Chef’s ability to use his creativity and integrate Korean flavors into fresh and clean tasting food. I would not call his food Korean Japanese fusion, but rather American Cuisine, using Japanese and French techniques using Korean flavors.
For example, one of my favorite dishes was his Toro Sashimi wrapped around some micro mixed greens and “gochujang” (korean red pepper sauce) topped off with some caviar. (see picture below)
I’d also recommend the Big Eyed Tuna Pizza, his signature dish that will blow your mind. It’s basically tuna on a fried tortilla with some minced onions with some truffle oil and greens on top. (see video below)
So the next time you are in Las Vegas, I would highly recommend trying at least a couple of Chef Akira’s dishes and ask for something with gochujang in it, because you won’t be disappointed.