MacDonald Highlands is one of the hottest luxury real estate markets in the world today, attracting a diverse collection of powerful entrepreneurs and sports figures as residents. One such newcomer recently made a huge splash with his neighbors through an act of “culinary love” on Valentine’s Day. Michelin Star Celebrity Chef AKIRA BACK, proprietor of 15 acclaimed restaurants around the globe, hosted a gourmet dinner at DragonRidge Country Club inside MacDonald Highlands. After the mouthwatering event, Chef AKIRA BACK spoke with DragonRidge Communications Director Charlotte Evans about his personal drive (reflected in his signature phrase) to do things “BIG TIME!”
Q: Of all the places in the world where you could live, what made you choose MacDonald Highlands as home?
A: I absolutely love living in Las Vegas! My roots are here. As a chef, I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout the world opening restaurants. The MacDonald Highlands community was [my family’s] first choice when purchasing our home. With the surrounding amenities, my wife and I thought it would be the perfect place to call home and raise our daughter.
Q: We understand you are currently building a new, spectacular home inside MacDonald Highlands. Has this been a fun challenge?
A: It has definitely been a challenge. Between opening new restaurants, and the constant travel, my time has been extremely limited. Luckily, I have my father around to help me and my wife with the planning and construction visits. The one process I have been heavily involved in is the layout and design of the kitchen. When you are in MacDonald Highlands spending personal time, what are you most likely to be found doing? Playing tennis. I’m always on the courts spending time with my daughter Ella and my father. I need to work on my game. Ella always wins.
Q: Do you have a favorite place inside MacDonald Highlands?
A: I can’t say there is one place I like best. I love everything about it. It’s honestly the most beautiful community I’ve had the pleasure of living in. Being a chef, I like to have the best of everything, meaning the newest, the
coolest, the most high-end, and I want where I live to be the same. Top-of-the-line luxury is right here! I’m building a second home for my family [inside the gates.] Family has always been important to me, and I
want them close by. They are a constant inspiration and have always supported me and my crazy dreams.
Q: Your personal story would make a terrific Hollywood movie. You were born in South Korea and moved to the states as a teenager. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
A: It was extremely difficult for my sister and I to pack up and move to a whole new country. We didn’t speak much English when we moved to Colorado. I wanted to make friends and meet girls. All the cool kids were snowboarding, so I learned fast! Once I found snowboarding, things just started clicking for me.
Q: I’ll say! You spent 7 years on the professional snowboarding circuit. Being competitive, does that carry over into your success as a chef?
A: It’s not about a need to win, but rather to push myself to be the best I can be. As a chef, I like to be continually recreating and reinventing myself. I strive to be better and better all the time.
Q: Was there a time in your life when you faced adversity and learned something about yourself as a result?
A: Yes, being a Korean boy in Colorado was rare. I had to learn English on my own and navigate a completely different culture. It made me not afraid of going places I haven’t been to and trying new things with new people. I learned who I am. This is also something I teach my daughter. She’s not afraid to try anything new. I tell her, “You can have and do anything and everything you want. Anything!”
Q: Being a Michelin Star Celebrity Chef with successful restaurants around the world would be an end goal for any chef, but your career is still very much expanding. What do you envision in the future?
A: The AKIRA BACK brand is a diverse portfolio of restaurants and lounges around the globe. We pride ourselves on creating innovative culinary experiences, combined with a social atmosphere and elegant ambiance. Our mission statement is to make unforgettable memories for our guests by revolutionizing the dining experience through one-of-a-kind dishes and gracious service. I want to open as many restaurants as I can and control them 100 percent.
Q: Running a restaurant empire during the Covid19 pandemic must have posed tremendous challenges. How have your restaurants adapted?
A: We have always put the health and safety of our staff and guests first. We were very lucky to be growing the brand while others had to close. I feel very blessed.
Q: You hosted a Valentine’s Dinner at DragonRidge Country Club that locals are raving about and food
critics called “epic.” Is it often that you do something like that on an intimate scale?
A: I haven’t done that in a long time, so it was nice to bring recipes and food inspired by my mother and childhood experiences here to DragonRidge and talk to the members. It felt like one big family dinner. I loved it. I want to reach as many people as I can and hopefully leave them feeling connected to me through the story of my food.
Q: Of all your professional accomplishments, is there one in particular that brings you pride?
A: Yes, of course! Every chef hopes to gain Michelin Star status.
Q: What would you like people to know about you that they might not think to ask?
A: Most people would think my childhood idol would be a chef. However, it’s Andre Agassi.
Q: When the Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, what are you most interested in doing?
A: Talking to people again and not wearing a mask! Also, being able to have full restaurants again!