Akira Back will soon make his Dubai debut with Akira Back Dubai at W Dubai – The Palm – the same hotel that Massimo Bottura will open his first restaurant outside of Italy, Torno Subito. We speak to chef Akira to hear more about the opening and why he chose Dubai to launch.
Known for his culinary creativity and bold interpretations of Asian fare with American influence, chef Akira Back has restaurants all over the world, and will soon be opening Akira Back Dubai at W Dubai – The Palm.
Restaurants in his portfolio include Kumi Japanese Restaurant +Bar by Akira Back at Mandalay Bay and the famed Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge by Akira Back at Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, both part of the prestigious Hakkasan Group portfolio where he is Executive Chef and Partner. Additionally, Chef Akira Back opened his namesake brand, Akira Back Restaurants in Singapore, New Delhi and Jakarta with additional locations opening in Toronto, Dubai and Bangkok, as well as DOSA in Seoul Korea, which opened in May 2016. His newest concepts include AB Steak in Jakarta and ABar in Singapore and Bangkok, which opened last year.
Born in Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, chef Akira 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, Akira began working at local restaurants to supplement his income as an extreme sports athlete. After seven years on the pro-snowboarding circuit, Akira realised 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.
Chef Back went on to study at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute in Colorado, and went on to tour Japan and Europe, studying under celebrity chefs and industry leaders, including Masaharu Morimoto and Brian Nagao. In 2003, Akira returned to Aspen to lead the kitchen as Executive Chef of Nobu Matsuhisa’s namesake restaurant.
Now, years on chef Akira’s portfolio is making its Middle East debut with the launch of Akira Back Dubai. Here, the man himself tells us more…
You’re soon to open Akira Back Dubai – what attracted you to launch in this region and at W Dubai – The Palm?
Dubai has become the hottest culinary hub and the flow of investment coming into this part of the world has grown significantly. W Dubai – The Palm as a brand is the perfect choice for my brand’s Middle East expansion.
How many restaurants do you have internationally, and how often do you visit each outlet?
To date I have 11 restaurants in 10 cities all over the world, with 4 more opening this year (Akira Back Dallas, San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Bali). I always make time to visit each outlet at least twice a year, but I do have a solid Corporate Chef and teams of Chefs to keep an eye on all the outlets.
With so much travelling, are you able to get hands on in the kitchen often?
I have to! I am first and foremost a chef and the first thing I do when I’m in my outlet is go into the kitchen and cook with my team. I also have the privilege of having a very strong team, which allows me the time to create new menu items and develop exciting projects.
Japanese cuisine relies heavily on high-quality, fresh fish. Where will you be sourcing your fish from for Akira Back Dubai?
Tsukiji Market, Japan
Which types of fish are bestsellers in your restaurants?
Tuna, Yellowtail, and Black Cod.
What’s a new ingredient that you’re enjoying cooking with at the moment and how do you utilise it in your dishes?
I enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients – and I always incorporate my Korean roots to create a progressive dish.
Inside the kitchen at Akira Back Dubai, who will man the kitchen when you’re not around?
Chef Gio Ledon will man the kitchen in Akira Back Dubai – he has been with us at Yellowtail since the beginning.
How do you ensure consistency across your international restaurants? What training processes are your chefs required to take?
You will see the same quality and consistency of dishes served in all Akira Back restaurants, all over the world. Before we open a new outlet, our chefs are trained in one of our properties so they know what I expect them to produce.
What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?
Every chef wants to be on the list and have a star. I have an awesome team of chefs who are like my kids. We are family, and their success is my success. They are my stars.
For young chefs aspiring to become a master in Japanese cuisine, what would your advice be to them?
Have a sharp knife and a sharp mind.
If you enjoyed this story, you might be interested in reading about another Japanese restaurant opening on The Palm.