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From hot dogs in Mexico to sushi in Nevada: DACA recipient turns food passion into a profession

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Personal chef Gustavo Velasco poses for a photograph at a Reno restaurant on Jan. 26, 2021. Velasco is a DACA recipient and owner of Gusto Catering.

RENO, Nev. — Gustavo Velasco’s love affair with food began with grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs.

He was just 7 years old when he started cooking. By then, he could reach the stovetop, no problem. It was something he looked forward to doing when he got home from school.

His mother, Maria de Lourdes, said she would often find her son standing on a stool, cooking.

“Gustavo was a boy who loved food,” she said in Spanish. “He’s had a passion for the kitchen since he was very little.” 

Lourdes, a former secretary for an educational institution in Mexico, worked long hours and her son was often home alone through the evening. 

“I would never starve because I would always know what to do,” Velasco said.

Velasco is now an executive chef for the local Squeeze-In restaurant chain. He manages five restaurants and hopes to take on management for another Squeeze-In location in Las Vegas.

He also works as a personal chef and owns his own catering business, GUSTO Catering & Meals.

“Food was always around me and always prevalent,” he said.

Velasco grew up in Tepic, Mexico. His family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 14, and eventually, his mother moved him and his sister to Reno.

Velasco is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the U.S. About 643,560 people, mostly from Mexico, are benefiting from the DACA program, according to March 2020 data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

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