By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Sean Currid’s eyes light up when he talks about Maple & Ash, the new restaurant he leads at the Scottsdale Waterfront.
He brags about the fire-roasted seafood tower, the “IDGAF” $155 menu and the selection of dry-aged steaks and premium seafood that give the restaurant its personality.
“I love everything about this restaurant, from how chaotic it is to the stresses, and pushing through the challenges because anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” Currid says, wiping his forehead.
“I come up with solutions on our feet. I find a lot of gratitude out of that and I get excited about that.”
Open since August, Maple & Ash is part of the What If…Syndicate, a portfolio of brands that also includes Mavens & Aficionados, 8 Bar, Etta and Aya Pastry. Partner/executive chef Danny Grant, who formerly lived in Scottsdale, trusted Currid to care for Maple & Ash when he opened his first location outside of Chicago’s Gold Coast.
Currid and Grant have history. The two worked together at Elements Restaurant at Sanctuary Camelback Resort & Spa.
Born and raised in Southern California, Currid graduated from high school in El Paso. Afterward, he entered college with the hopes of studying psychology.
“I realized I had enough problems of my own,” he says. “I didn’t want to listen to everybody else for the remainder of my life. Cooking was this bug I got. It’s something that I found I was good at and I enjoyed.”
That was in 1995, when he moved to the Valley to attend Scottsdale Culinary Institute through 1997. He went straight into the kitchen, working at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, Michael’s at the Citadel, Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician and Café Zuzu at the Hotel Valley Ho.
“I’ve made a phenomenal living for myself out here,” he says. “I’ve had the chance to work for some great properties, great restaurants and phenomenal chefs.”
But he walks in Maple & Ash’s kitchen to show off Josper, a grill/oven combo that works continuously at an average temperature of 300 to 350 degrees. The Josper and Maple & Ash’s wood-fired dishes are the keys to the restaurant’s success.
“It really just intensifies the flavor,” Currid says. “It gives all this flavor to our seafood tower and to all the vegetables that we do in there. It’s just something that sets Maple & Ash apart from everyone else.”
Even the menu says so: “We believe cooking over a live wood fire simply tastes better.” The line is above the wood-fired steaks and seafood like 10-ounce filet mignon ($59); full rack of Australian lamb ($54); crispy pork Milanese ($28); fire-roasted chicken ($36); roasted dover sole ($38) and The Eisenhower, a 40-plus-ounce porterhouse cooked directly in the coals ($175).
Notable as well are the four pasta dishes—ricotta agnolotti ($26); chanterelle and sweet corn ($20); short rib Bolognese ($22) and classic pomodoro ($18).
“We have a whole room separated in our kitchen where we make fresh pastas daily,” Currid explains. “I believe we have one of the best pasta programs in the state of Arizona, and I love showcasing all these beautiful, wonderful, fresh pastas and pasta dishes that we have on here.
“Just like anything, we try to showcase everything. We believe in taking the highest-quality, best ingredients you can get and adding just a couple of things—not too much fuss—and letting those ingredients speak for themselves. We let the cooking method speak for itself.”
Maple & Ash is gorgeous inside and out. The restaurant features a dining room and lounge, along with a spacious outdoor dining deck that is surrounded by lush, overgrown greenery to offer diners privacy, along with stunning private and semi-private dining spaces. The space is expansive at over 10,000 square feet, with all the action centered around the massive 14-foot wood burning hearth.
Currid is just as enthusiastic about giving back to the community. He calls What If…Syndicate a “very gracious restaurant group.”
“We don’t want people to feel that this is just a special occasion restaurant,” he says. “I want this to be one of your local places that you’re able to come to and hang out and feel like ‘I was born here.’ We remember our guests.”
Maple & Ash, 7135 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480.400.8888, mapleandash.com, 4:30 to 6 p.m. “golden hour,” 5 to 10 p.m. (last seating) Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. (last seating) Friday and Saturday.