Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce is a Chicago institution, and from humble beginnings, the family recipe has become the go-to sauce for millions from coast to coast.
It's the lunch- time rush at Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue joint in northwest suburban Wood Dale, and eaters come for the acclaimed ribs, brisket and chicken. Few ever leave disappointed.
They do great business at Sweet Baby Ray's in Wood Dale and at a sister property in Elk Grove Village, but none of it would have been possible without the assistance of legendary Chicago journalist Mike Royko.
Mike Royko's Ribfest took place in Grant Park, in Sept.1985. Roughly 700 people entered the contest, and Dave Raymond and big brother Larry came in second. Dave and Larry were inspired; soon after they perfected their own homemade sauce, Sweet Baby Ray's.
Years later that would become what it still is today: The top selling barbecue sauce in America.
"I'm living proof that a regular guy can make it in the business world. We started our company with $2,000, barely a high school education and a dream. And to see Sweet Baby Ray's grow into the best selling Barbecue sauce in the country is just simply amazing to us," said Dave Raymond, a.k.a. Sweet Baby Ray.
The name itself goes back to Dave's early days on the West Side, when his buddies nicknamed him Sweet Baby Ray as a nod to his last name, his little brother status and his deadly baseline jumper.
Today, it's still a family business. Dave's nephew Deuce is now a partner and runs the catering department.
The ribs are slow-cooked in the smoker for three hours before they are brushed with one of the sixteen sauces they now produce.
Dave sold out to an out of state firm eight years ago, but he's allowed to use the Sweet Baby Ray's logo on his sauces and run a limited number of restaurants.
He also still loves to compete, which he does from coast to coast with great success.
"I could not be more proud of what we've done in the barbecue sauce business and what we're doing now in the restaurant business and catering. The great amount of effort it takes, the whole team that we have, it's really been a blessing,” Dave said.