Back was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. He took a serious interest in baseball at a young age and decided to move to Japan to pursue it. Back's baseball career ended shortly afterwards, when his father's business took their family to the U.S. in 1989, eventually ending up in Aspen, Colorado.
At age 15, Back began his snowboarding career and spent 7 years on the professional snowboarding circuit. He appeared in various extreme sports movies and was featured in the sport's top trade publications.
After ending his snowboarding career, Back went on to study at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Colorado. In 1993, he began his first culinary job working at Kenichi in Aspen as sushi prep cook. He was later recruited to Kenichi in Austin, Texas and then in Kona, Hawaii, where he worked as the opening chef.
In 2008, Back debuted Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge, Chef Akira Back at Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Yellowtail's menu embodies classic Japanese cuisine. Featured dishes include Big Eye Tuna Pizza, Lobster Carpaccio, and Kobe Beef Tataki, among others. Yellowtail's celebrity clientele includes Taylor Swift, Eva Longoria, Wilmer Valderrama, Pink & Carey Hart, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kelly Osbourne, David Arquette, Ryan Kewanten and Joe Jonas.
During the 2006 Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, a producer of Iron Chef America approached Back after tasting a menu that Back had presented. Back immediately agreed to appear on the show, saying that he loved it and "grew up with it". On an episode that aired March 16, 2008, he lost to Bobby Flay in a spinach battle. It was stated that he studied under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
In addition to Food Network's "Iron Chef America," Chef Back has been featured on NBC's The Today Show, Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, The Cooking Channel's United Tastes of America, and KBS's Success Mentor in Korea.
Back was awarded with the title of "Rising Star" by Restaurant Hospitality in 2008. He hosted the prestigious James Beard House dinners in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012. He was named "Best Chef In Las Vegas" by Las Vegas Weekly. Back has also participated in some of the culinary world's most prestigious events, including the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, and Bon Appetit's Vegas Uncork'd.