Owner, GUsTO Catering & Meals
Gustavo Velasco had just graduated from Reed High School when a family friend asked him what he wanted to study in college. As a recent immigrant who’d moved to Reno from Mexico with his mother in 1999 at age 14, Velasco assumed he should focus on making money.
“I like to eat!” he joked. So she pushed him to study at the culinary arts program at Truckee Meadows Community College, while he worked in catering at the convention center.
A year after graduation, Velasco became the lead chef for the Chocolate Bar franchise. Although he loved the work, he hated the industry’s reputation for high stress, low pay, burnout and alcohol abuse.
Velasco worked as a bartender for the next several years, but he missed cooking. “I love the way food brings people together,” he says. During this time, he also became eligible for the DACA program that gives young immigrants the right to work and live in the United States. His new status gave him the confidence to put down roots, and Velasco decided to start his own business. He named it GUsTO Catering, in a play of words on his first name Gustavo.
Although he had a binder of recipes, Velasco wanted guidance to make sure he was approaching his startup wisely. In 2016, he contacted the Northern Nevada SCORE chapter, a nonprofit organization that offered classes to help entrepreneurs. He was also connected to Sandra Rentas who worked for the Nevada Small Business Development Center. “She told me I that I had the right mentality of starting slowly,” he says. Today, he works as a personal chef hosting dinner parties in clients’ homes and offering corporate cooking classes via Zoom.
Velasco appreciates Reno’s business resources and surging growth, especially as more high-profile companies, including Tesla and Microsoft, set up shop. “They create jobs and giving me opportunities to cook.” Although he’s still part of the DACA program, he’d like to see reform that gives immigrants like him a pathway to citizenship. “I’ve been here 22 years now. All I want to do is be a part of Reno’s success story.”