Celebrity Chef Akira Back : A glimpse into his life and his food

Chef Akira Back

The funny thing about destiny is that you can neither predict it, nor prevent it. This quote could not be more true, than in the case of Chef Akira Back, whose namesake Japanese restaurant with a Korean accent Akira Back at the JW Marriott Aerocity , New Delhi , has been making waves in the capital, exciting both diners and critics, ever since it opened a few months back.
From a baseball player in Seoul Korea, to a professional snowboarder, to a world renowned chef, it sure has been an interesting journey for this unconventional and dynamic Korean. Life took a dramatic turn for Akira Back when he was 15 years old and his family moved to Aspen Colorado, where his father worked for the well known water resistant fabric brand Gortex. He did not speak any English and initially found it difficult to adjust to a new culture.
Just to be able to “fit in “ and be “cool”, Akira began moving with a motley crowd, got a Mohawk hairstyle, dyed his hair blue, and got his nose pierced.  He took to snowboarding, initially to make friends, and then pursued it at a professional level. But he soon lost his passion for this sport.
His parents gave him the freedom to do “anything”. So he enrolled at the International Culinary School, and at the age of 19, began his first culinary job at Kenichi in Aspen as a Sushi prep cook.
Akira Back hated cooking. Being raised in a typical Asian household where women took care of all the housework, he found working in a restaurant, tougher than being in the army. “At that time I thought it was a punishment from God”, he told me during the course of our conversation.  “The owner of Kenichi would throw rice on the floor and make me pick it up grain by grain, just so that I could learn the virtue of patience, the most important ingredient in Japanese Cuisine  “, said Chef Back. He cried often and thought of quitting many times.
It was only after working for three years that he began to like cooking, and from then onwards, there was no looking back. He quit his job and travelled around the world to “find myself”, as he says. His sense of adventure coupled with his new found passion for food made him try out a variety of cuisines, discover new ingredients and learn new cooking techniques.
It was a phone call from the celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who was opening the second Matsuhisa in Aspen, after the success of the first one at Beverly Hills, which made Akira Back get back. He learnt a lot from Nobu San. Though he had the freedom to create his own dishes at special events, but that was not enough. Akira Back wanted to do his own food. His participation in the famous TV show Iron Chef and his association with Chef Masaharu Morimoto had already made him a well known figure in the culinary circles.
Pop Rockin’ Roll
In 2008 Akira Back started Yellowtail at the Bellagio in Las Vegas which soon attained somewhat of a cult status and being  frequented by the likes of Taylor Swift , Eva Longoria, Pink , Kelly Osborneand many other celebrities. He followed it up with Kumi at Mandalay Bay and went on to win the title of Best Chef in Las Vegas. . He has also had the honour of hosting the prestigious James Beard House dinners four times.
Time was now right for Akira Back and his Light Group to expand to new regions and India happened to catch his attention. “It has been a challenging task to run the Akira Back restaurant in Delhi mostly in terms of sourcing the ingredients” , said Chef Back . However he is more than happy with the way the restaurant has shaped up, and its success in a short span of time has exceeded his expectations. “The team of Chef Kurt Nygren, Chef Jason and the Indian cooks, has done a marvellous job in executing my vision”, expressed a visibly proud Chef Back.
Eringii Mushroom served on a bed of Edamame Risotto

Chef Back does not like to call his food Fusion Cuisine and is more comfortable saying that his food is an expression of who he is. The Akira Back restaurant at JW Marriott, Delhi has a lot of firsts to its credit. It is the only one to use organic Micro Greens which are sourced locally. Keeping in mind the huge demand for vegetarian cuisine in India, Chef Back has created some masterpieces like the Red Bell Pepper Pizza, which is as popular, if not more, as the Tuna Pizza. It is a very thin tortilla topped with mayo, red bell pepper and micro greens, and seasoned with truffle oil. The other innovative dish is the Eringii Mushroom served on a bed of Edamame Risotto made with Japanese rice.
The cuisine at Akira Back is Classical Japanesewith a Korean twist, giving us a glimpse of the chef’s Korean American heritage. All the proteins are cooked in the “sous vide” technique which helps the food retain its original texture and appearance, without the loss of excess amounts of fat. A highly recommended dish is the Wasabi Pepper Tenderloin, served with a potato mash, asparagus and mushrooms.
Wasabi Pepper Tenderloin

Known as someone who is constantly innovating and always at the cutting edge, Chef Akira Back has recently introduced his latest creation, “Pop Rockin’ Roll” which features crab, asparagus and believe it or not pop rocks. This dish is connected to his childhood memories and also represents the flashy Las Vegas, which is now home to Chef Back. So be prepared for some serious explosions, when you pop these sushi rolls in your mouth. He has recently released Junmai Ginjo, his first private label high grade Sake, which is available at the restaurant
Chef Back and his extremely talented team have made sure that the Akira Back restaurant at JW Marriott, maintains its position as the top fine dine option for Japanese cuisine in the city. It has lived up to the buzz that it created when it was launched a few months back and has truly elevated the dining scene in the capital. This is indeed another notch in the belt for the talented Chef and one wishes him continued success.

By Lavina Kharkwal 

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Everyone has a unique palate and my reviews are purely based on my likes and dislikes. This blog reveals my lust for food, pictures that I own, food that I love, cuisines that I tasted, imperfect culinary skills that I possess and to top it all this blog is my passion . Each experience calls out the history of how I ended up being at a particular place. Join Me in this culinary journey of comfort food, the rich and hearty meals, delectable platters, distinctive recipes and savoury Gourmet!

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