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Cooking Up Success

Gilbert Chef Honored As James Beard Semifinalist

Article by Gretchen Pahia

Photography by Quianna Marie Photography @quiannamarie

Originally published in Gilbert City Lifestyle

Gilbert restaurant owner Chef Claudio Urciuoli is celebrating a special honor after being recently named as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef – Southwest. Chef Urciuoli is the owner of Source, a Mediterranean inspired restaurant that serves guests delicious food that is ingredient driven and community centered. Located at Epicenter at Agritopia in Gilbert, this neighborhood spot serves several options including pizza, salads, and sandwiches on freshly made bread.  

For Chef Urciuoli, being in the restaurant and food business runs in the family. “My grandmother owned a grocery store, and my dad was in the bread business. He was a salesman for a flour company and his uncle owned a bakery, so I was always in and around the kitchen.” 

In fact, Chef Urciuoli shares that even when it came time to do his homework after school, rather than going into his bedroom to work on his studies, he would sit at the kitchen table so he could still be around what was happening in his house. “We went to school from 8 to 1 during the day but then after school, I would go to the store to get food for meals so I could help my family. I got to clean potatoes and lettuce when I was younger and then clean fish as I got older, it was always a family affair when it came to cooking,” shares Urciuoli. 

The family aspect of cooking and sharing food with others is something that has always stuck with Chef Urciuoli, especially now that he has a family of his own. “I am the designated cook at our house. I make three different meals sometimes but that is okay with me because it exposes my kids to different things. We have a wood fired oven outside and a wood fired grill. My son likes to cook too, so he helps out.”

Now 54, Chef Urciuoli has been living in the United States since he was 19 years old, and he has had the opportunity to find success from the ground up. His friends encouraged him to move to the U.S. where he was likely to find a lot of work available for his craft of choice. “In the U.S. people eat out a lot,” says Chef Urciuoli. “So, I moved to Los Angeles and saw so many restaurants and opportunities to succeed. I met people from all over the world, experienced a multicultural environment at so many spots, it was great.” Chef Urciuoli worked his way up from line cook to sous chef and eventually to chef of his own operations, certainly putting in the work to get to where he is today. 

As a semi-finalist for the James Beard Awards’ Best Chef Southwest, Chef Urciuoli was very surprised by the honor, and not something he was expecting. “I got an email to answer some questions about how I see the business, about sustainability, my philosophy when it comes to food and restaurants,” shares Chef Urciuoli. The judges even come to each restaurant individually to check out the quality of food, but Chef Urciuoli never knew who or when they would be coming. “They come to the business, but they are anonymous, so you just don’t know when they will be there.” The judges choose a set amount of folks from each region and then select their group, narrowing it down from there. One of the things that Chef Urciuoli feels he has against him is his lacking use of social media. “I’m not really good on Instagram or those things, so I wasn’t sure I’d have what they were looking for there.” Admittedly when he started back in 2006, social media wasn’t around but now, he has had to adapt to using it because he sees the value of mixing it into daily activities. “I think it is an extremely important part of a restaurant or any business to be on social media.” For Chef, he believes that those looking at the award nominees, they saw his food, history, and reviews of the restaurant that really helped solidify the honor.

Chef Urciuoli shares that for him, it is really about the ingredients used to make his dishes. If he feels good about what goes into the food, then those eating it will feel good too. When it comes to accolades and honors such as the James Beard Award, Chef Urciuoli is humbled. “I feel like it’s an honor to be in a circle with these other great chefs, I look at the others and they are doing a great job.” 

Source is located at 3150 E. Ray Road, Suite 104. For more information on the restaurant or menu, check out the website at, or call 480-687-7732.

"Using fresh ingredients is the key. When I feel good about what goes into the food, then those eating it will feel good too."