The Crew

  • Dave Raymond

    “Sweet Baby Ray”

    Dave Raymond, aka Sweet Baby Ray, and Cathy (his wonderful wife) are lifelong Chicagoans with more than 29 passionate years of the barbecue biz behind them. As a youngster growing up on Chicago’s West Side (Best Side) Dave learned early on that life is not always fair or easy—a lesson that helped to define the friend, businessman, and person that he is today. Capitalizing on early success at Mike Royko’s Ribfest in Chicago, 1982, Dave and life-long friend, Mike O’Brien built Sweet Baby Ray’s into what today is the best-selling barbecue sauce in the country. Now a multi-faceted business operation, Sweet Baby Ray’s boasts two restaurants, a full-service Elk Grove Village location run with Mike and a barbecue “joint” in Wood Dale run with nephew, Duce, as well as two premier catering companies. Dave currently resides in Wood Dale, close to relatives and life-long friends, and spends much of his spare time with the barbecue community, still lovin’ the ‘que crew as much as ever.

  • Nancy Irlbeck


    Nancy Irlbeck is our fearless leader. Only the 2nd employee to join the Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce team, Nancy worked as the bookkeeper for 10 years, then, with her go-get-‘em attitude and rock-hard work ethic, she jumped right in as the office manager when the company expanded into restaurants and catering. Before long, she was promoted to President. With her experience and her background, growing up in Wisconsin in a family that owned their own catering business for 30 years, it’s no surprise that she’s got the know-how to keep us on our toes. Plus she gardens. Go Nancy.

    Recommends: Jamaican Jerk Chicken & True Cuisine Bistro Salad

  • Larry (Duce) Raymond


    Duce was destined for the food industry. Son of Chef Larry Raymond and nephew of Dave Raymond, the creators of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, Chef Duce grew up in and around restaurants, and began working in the food and service industry at the age of 12. Realizing his passion, Duce later attended Kendall College Culinary School where he graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts, and was a member of Kendall College’s first graduating class to have completed a bachelor’s degree program in culinary study. Now, pouring his zeal into the Sweet Baby Ray’s & True Cuisine family, Duce manages and creates deliciousness on a daily basis. His specialties include Southern and Central American cuisine and, of course, barbecue– which he has perfected at such recognized events and venues as the Taste of Chicago, the Naperville Ribfest, and the Wrigley Field rooftops. Duce and Dave are KCBS Barbecue Competition teammates, where they earn their share of awards—and we’re sure there’ll be more trophies in the future! Today Duce, his wife, Sarah, and their daughter Madeline, reside close by in Itasca.

  • Bob Nykaza

    Operations Manager

    Bob Nykaza, our go-to guy for just about, well, everything makes our world go ‘round and makes it go ‘round smoothly. An integral part of our team, and one of the nicest guys we know, Bob is a logistics extraordinaire. His 25 years experience in the Security Industry including seven years as Vice President of Technical Services, impressive knack for planning, and unwavering commitment to service and quality show in each and every event. And we can thank him, our construction manager, for our new kitchen—on time, on budget, and very, very cool.

    Recommends: Baby Back Ribs & Barbecue Shrimp

  • Bob Krause

    Director of Sales, ext. 213

    Bob Krause is a genuine guy with smarts, charisma and a whole ‘lotta drive. Hailing from a large family and a small community, Bob learned the art of event planning at an early age. After attending Bradley University and accumulating extensive sales and sales management experience from his family business, Bob joined the Sweet Baby Ray’s & True Cuisine team—quickly becoming Sales Manager. While proudly leading a sales team that boasts over 75 years cumulative experience, Bob still hones his own culinary and event-planning prowess— heading a competition barbecue team, cooking and planning for family parties, and always working on a new rub or sauce. We love Bob, and couldn’t ask for better.

    Recommends: Santa Maria style Tri-tip & True Cuisine Artichoke Parmesan Crostini

  • Maria Collins

    Wedding & Event Consultant, ext. 215

    Maria Collins lights up our team– with spirit, positivity, and downright skill. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University with degrees in both Culinary Arts and Food Service Entrepreneurship, Maria has expanded her hospitality and food service industry experience by managing a banquet facility in Louisiana, serving as executive chef for a catering company and café in the Boston area, and, lucky for us, currently consulting for our Sweet Baby Ray’s & True Cuisine family. Her energy, and ability to create innovative menus specific to each client and event make her events shine. And as a bonus, she’s an excellent baker. Which is really something we can get behind.

    Recommends: Oreo Cheesecake Lollipops

  • Sandra Mendez

    Wedding & Event Consultant, ext. 207
    Sandra, the karaoke machine who is full of life. Sandra ‘kind of’ fell into the hospitality industry over 5 years ago, and has loved it ever since. Her favorite events to work with are Social Events! She loves thinking of creative and unique menus on any scale to help bring a special touch to every event – birthday party, retirement party, graduation party, wedding – she has no limit! And one of her favorite past times is cooking “comforty” food!

    Recommends: Burnt Ends and Texas Sausage with Duce’s Wild and Texas Sauce

  • Donna Stevens

    Catering & Event Consultant, ext. 208

    Donna Stevens brings the fun. Originally hired by Sweet Baby Ray when she was only 16 years old, Donna, after discovering her love of sales and helping the Sweet Baby Ray’s team with the restaurant project when it first opened in 2005, has become a valued catering consultant for the Sweet Baby Ray’s & True Cuisine family. Never ceasing to be bright and down-to-earth, Donna successfully combines her love for making people happy with her passion for providing great food and service. Her family, which takes center-stage in her life, keeps her busy and happy. As does the hobby she shares with all of us—cooking and eating!

    Recommends: Grilled & Chilled Vegetables

  • Kevin Irlbeck

    Catering & Event Consultant, ext. 212

    Bio. Coming Soon…

  • Mallory Weathers

    Catering & Event Coordinator, ext. 214

    Catering & Event Consultant

    Catering & Event Consultant, ext. 214


    Mallory has been with the True Cuisine and Sweet Baby Ray’s family for over ten years! Mallory grew up in the hospitality industry and found the love for it at a young age. While climbing up the catering ladder, Mallory received her Bachelor Degree from Northern Illinois University in Nutrition Dietetics & Hospitality Administration with a Business Minor. One of her main hobbies is cooking food from scratch, a hobby she shares closely with her mother and grandmother.

    Recommends: Miso Glazed Cod with a Sweet & Spicy Mango Cilantro Salsa