–by Jennifer Ruple

Jennifer Ruple

In 2009, Kyle Baker won a contest that pitted his homemade barbecue sauce against nearly 300 other food products. By winning the first-place award in the Ohio Signature Food Contest, hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Baker was given the assistance he needed to launch his business, Gertie’s Premium BBQ Sauces.

While Baker’s sauces are his own recipes, they were inspired by his mother, Vernice Gertrude Baker. “My mom was a really good cook. She made great barbecue chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens and cornbread, and I loved her fried fish,” reminisced Baker. Gertrude, a mother of eight, was also the head cook at Toledo Hospital in late 1970s and early 80s. “Cooking is what she loved to do,” he added.

“When my wife, Ramona Rodriguez-Baker, and I were living in California in the 1980s, we came up with this sauce. People would come over to eat, and they’d ask if I could make them some sauce to take home,” recalled Baker. “When we moved back to Toledo, we thought we’d step out and try selling the sauce at a festival. We were making barbecued ribs and people were lined up down the street for them. We could barely keep up. We decided to do the festival again the next year, and that’s when we thought about pursuing making and selling the sauce,” he added.

Today there are three sauces in the Gertie’s line: Original, Bold and Spicy and Holy Smoke. “Original is a smooth and sweet sauce,” Baker explained. “Bold and Spicy is just that, without all the heat. We didn’t want you to have to put your head in a bucket of water,” he laughed. “Holy Smoke is for people who want a kick.” A fourth flavor is expected to be released in about a year.

Gertie’s sauces are available in over 150 stores in seven states. Locally, they can be found at Sautter’s and Churchill’s markets, Foodtowns, Monnette’s Market, House of Meats, Zavotski Custom Meats and Deli, Stanley’s Market, and Kilgus and Milo’s meat markets.

Baker believes his success is due to the high-quality and distinctive ingredients he uses. “Our sauce is smooth. When you put it on the meat, it doesn’t roll off; it sticks to it.” Baker also believes in his custom label, which was designed by Terry Maurer. “We have the best label in the country!”

In addition to making award-winning sauces, Baker is a father of five, grandfather to seven, and the assistant pastor at Northpoint Church of the Nazarene. “Gertie’s is truly a family-run business, and my wife, sons and daughter are a big part of the production.”

For a true Gertie’s experience, Baker offers a few of his favorite barbecue recipes. While seasoning amounts aren’t noted, Baker urges you to “season to taste.”

Ramona Rodriguez-Baker and Kyle Baker

Lola’s Glazed Meatballs
“My granddaughter, Lola, loves this simple but delicious treat,” remarked Baker. “Whenever I come home from a weekend taste demo, one of the first things she asks me is ‘do you have any more of those meatballs, papa?’ If I do have any left, they are gone as soon as she finds out.”

Bag of frozen meatballs (not Swedish meatballs)
Garlic powder
Dried minced onion
1 jar of Gertie’s Premium Barbecue Sauce, Original flavor
Olive oil

Heat oven to 350 F. Coat baking pan lightly with olive oil.

Place meatballs on pan and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle minced onion, garlic powder and pepper on meatballs. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and generously brush meatballs with barbecue sauce. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and serve in a chafing dish or crockpot.



Jamie’s Pulled Pork
“While my mom still ranks as our family’s favorite cook, I have to give my friend, Jamie, the title for the best pulled pork in all the land. After your friends and family taste this, there won’t be anything left,” smiled Baker.

2 ½ to 3-pound pork butt, boneless or bone-in (I prefer bone-in)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Salt and pepper
18 ounce jar of Gertie’s Premium Barbecue Sauce

In a crockpot, pour one cup of water. Add garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Allow seasonings to warm up in the water for about 10 minutes, making a broth.

Place pork butt into water and cover crock pot with aluminum foil before placing lid on. This helps hold in the moisture. Cook pork butt on low heat for 8 hours.

When pork is fully cooked, pour off juice/broth, and reserve approximately 1-2 cups. Remove bone if using bone-in meat.

With a large fork, shred pork. Pour juice back into pulled pork and stir in barbecue sauce, about ½ to ¾ of a jar. Allow mixture to simmer for 20 minutes prior to serving.


Gertie’s BBQ Ribs
“There are many ways to make delicious tasting baby back ribs, and believe me, I have had some great barbecued ribs,” remarked Baker. “We like to keep things simple, and here is a simple recipe to make mouth-watering ribs.”

2 slabs baby back ribs
Granulated garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Basil or finger crushed rosemary
Onions, cut into wedges (optional)

Heat oven to 400 F. Rinse slabs of ribs with cold water. Sprinkle both sides of ribs with garlic powder, salt, pepper, basil or rosemary.

In a baking pan, place ribs bone down. Pour ½ cup of water into the pan. Cover pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil so the heat and moisture cannot escape.

Place pan into the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. While ribs are in the oven, preheat grill or have coals HOT for 20 minutes.

Prior to searing meat on grill, if desired, place onions directly onto coals or flame. This will give meat a great smoked flavor and (add to its) tenderization.

Sear meat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush meat with a generous amount of Gertie’s sauce. Cook approximately 1 minute, allowing sauce to caramelize. Turn ribs over, brush with sauce and cook for 1 minute.

Remove from grill, cut and serve.