Central Florida fine dining aficionados no longer must travel to Las Vegas to enjoy Chef Akira’s culinary artistry. With the opening of the ette hotel’s Salt & the Cellar by Chef Akira Back, it’s a short trek to Kissimmee to enjoy the delectable creations of this internationally renowned chef.
Did you always want to be a chef, or did you have other aspirations as a child?
As a child I always wanted to be a baseball player and was supposed to move to Japan to train for baseball. Then one day, my father told us that we were moving to Aspen, Colorado. I didn’t even know where this was and had to look on a map.
That sounds exciting but I’m sure for a child, that was a seismic change. How was that move for you?
I did not speak English at the time so as a young teenager, moving to a new country and not knowing the language was difficult for me. In Aspen, all the cool kids were snowboarders, so I learned snowboarding to make friends and then became a professional sponsored snowboarder. I suffered some injuries and didn’t think snowboarding would be for the long term.
Instead of Chef Akira we could have known you as snowboarder Akira. What was your next step?
There was a local restaurant where all the cool people hung out to drink and have fun. I knew the owner and asked him for a job and he started me at the lowest position which I did not love. It took me a few years, and then I loved being a Chef and having the freedom of creativity that I once had with snowboarding.
It was meant to be. What was your favorite food memory?
I love to make truffle pasta for my daughter. It is her favorite food, and she is so excited when she gets to eat it.
What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to your work?
To continue growing and providing new and exciting opportunities for people on my team. Seeing their career growth and opportunities is very motivating to me.
Being a chef with so many restaurants is a big job. How do you spend your free time? Year hobbies?
Tennis has become my new favorite passion and hobby. I love to practice and also play in competition.
What is your favorite food to work with?
I love to cook outside on my patio in my backyard and enjoy the sun and nature. It is a great way to relax and recharge.
What is the secret to your success?
Preparation, dedication and passion.
Any rules you live by?
Don’t give up and always give your best effort.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
We have many exciting openings all over the world in the next few years. However, you must also live for today and enjoy each moment and day as we are not promised tomorrow.