The Crew

  • Dave Raymond
    “Sweet Baby Ray”

    “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 a Office Manager 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: True Bistro Salad and Sweet Baby Ray’s Award Winning Ribs

  • 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.

  • Sandra Mendez
    Wedding & Event Consultant

    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

    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

  • Mallory Weathers
    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

  • Angelica Cerceo-Jensen
    Catering & Event Coordinator

    Catering & Event Coordinator ext. 209


    It’s a family affair when it comes to Angelica’s experience with food and events. She grew up cooking authentic Italian food with her mother and grandfather, Poppi. She got a taste of event management following her mother around participating in “take your daughter to work” days growing up. This in turn led Angelica to major in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Hospitality Management. She strives to make her clients happy, while hoping to create return business.

    Recommends: Sweet Baby Ray’s Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Coleslaw

  • Helina Washkowiak
    Catering & Event Coordinator

    Catering & Event Coordinator ext. 205


    Helena comes to us as our newest Event and Catering Coordinator. Although she comes to us from a very different world, having completed a bachelor’s in Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago and working on the Peggy Smedley Show, Helena learned early on that she was meant for this industry. She loves nothing more than to help people plan their events and special days such as weddings, retirements and graduation parties. She will make sure to treat your event as if it was her own family celebrating.

    Recommends: Sweet Baby Ray’s Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • Sarah Smith
    Event Services Manager

    Event Services Manager ext. 203


    Sarah has had a long-standing love affair with food. She grew up in her father’s kitchen, creating delicious recipes. And her mother instilled the importance of quality and taking pride in one’s work; two qualities that have driven her passion for food and service.

    This passion led her and a few friends to go on a 6,000-mile/15 day road trip. They ate nowhere but the best BBQ joints. Spots recommended by the followers of her live blog. It was during this time she had a chance encounter with Dave, which would eventually lead to her joining the Sweet Baby Ray’s family. Passion soon turned career when she competed in the Food Network Show “Food Court Wars” and won rent-free ownership of a restaurant for one year. Casual Joe’s was born. The cuisine a nod to her Wisconsin roots with a southern twist. Although successful, she made the tough decision to close her restaurant and reach out to Dave, who encouraged her to set up an interview. And the rest is, as they say, history.

    Recommends: Burnt Ends and Chili Mac and Cheese

  • Alison Sousa
    Wedding & Event Consultant

    Wedding & Event Consultant ext. 202


    Coming Soon….