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This Pro Snowboarder Turned Michelin-Starred Chef Is Carving Up the Culinary Scene

Already with 16 global venues under his belt, Akira Back will open another new restaurant in San Diego later this month.

Chef Akira Back Dennie B Ramon

What do you get when you cross a former professional snowboarder with a detail-obsessed gourmand? Lumi, a rooftop restaurant helmed by chef Akira Back in downtown San Diego that is set to open this month.

At Lumi, guests can expect hits like salmon, wagyu beef or toro, all stone-seared at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and chased with oroshi ponzu, salt-sesame oil and mustard-soy garlic. Or splurge on “the Harmony,” a sushi roll topped with foie gras, wagyu, lobster tempura and truffle sauce.

It’s clear that Back, Korean-born and Aspen-bred, is gaining serious altitude in the culinary world. With a portfolio of 16 global venues (and counting), the Michelin-starred chef caught up with us about his latest.

You spent seven years on the professional snowboarding circuit. How has that influenced you as a chef?

There are a lot of underlying similarities between snowboarding and being a chef. Both are very physically demanding and allow self-expression in a unique way. Snowboarding has given me the endurance needed to succeed in the kitchen as well as the confidence to take risks.

Sushi at Lumi

Sushi at Lumi  Courtesy of Lumi

Tell us about your passion for using exotic ingredients.

Ingredients that are lesser-known or exotic truly excite me. I welcome the challenge of being able to prepare them in a way that’s true to my style and approachable for my guests. Right now, chestnuts and persimmon are two I’m loving. Nostalgia plays a factor, too, as I have fond childhood memories of eating both with my baseball team and my family.

What advice can you offer for sourcing the absolute finest local ingredients?

Keep it simple. Overcomplication can be the downfall of a dish. With the menus at Lumi, I’m working with a lot of incredible purveyors and farmers, and home chefs can do the same by sourcing ingredients from local farmers markets.

You have to give up caviar or truffles for the rest of your life. Which gets the ax?

Caviar. The acidity can cause arthritic issues if overconsumed.

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