A “food sherpa” (or “food Sherpa") is a culinary guide who knows the best local restaurants and their best dishes. The Sherpas of the Himalayas are famed for their mountaineering skills and their help on the successful 1953 British Mount Everest expedition. A “food sherpa” could be a friend (or relative) or a professional who works for pay.
Rob Gould often wrote about his “NYC Food Sherpa” on Twitter, starting on September 27, 2009. A Twitter message from Food Network Canada on July 18, 2010, told about “Regis Philbin’s official food Sherpa.” The term was popularized in the New York (NY) Times on July 30, 2013, “Follow Them to the Food: Local Guides Share Cities’ Culinary Secrets” by Jeff Gordinier:
“It’s that line of thinking that explains the rise, over the last few years, of a new kind of travel specialist — so new, in fact, that they haven’t coined a name for the job. For now, let’s call them the food sherpas.”
Wikipedia: Sherpa people
Sherpa (Tibetan:ཤར་པ། “eastern people”, from shar “east” + pa “people") are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas.
Most Sherpa people live in Nepal’s eastern regions; however, some live farther west in the Rolwaling valley and in the Helambu region north of Kathmandu. Pangboche is the oldest Sherpa village in Nepal. The Sherpa language belongs to the south branch of the Tibeto-Burman languages; however, this language is separate from Lhasa Tibetan and unintelligible to Lhasa speakers.
The number of Sherpas immigrating to the West has significantly increased in recent years, especially to the United States. New York City has the largest Sherpa community in the United States, with a population of approximately 2,500.
VIA NYC + a taxi-less 20 blocks. A big, sweaty, late mess. Media dinner, tempura fried bacon & my NYC Food Sherpa http://tinyurl.com/yco4lbn
8:27 PM - 27 Sep 09
The Standard Grill is going on the list for my NYC Food Sherpa http://tinyurl.com/ydwpe47
8:46 AM - 30 Sep 09
At SD26, a tasty new restaurant by Madison Sq Park with Amy Corr @MediaPost (my NYC food sherpa) and @nmcmahon. http://twitpic.com/ojc8k
3:23 PM - 6 Nov 09
Food Network Canada
John Bil of Ship To Shore in vintage Dior glasses. Was Regis Philbin’s official food Sherpa http://tweetphoto.com/33531364
1:32 PM - 18 Jul 10
New York (NY) Times
Follow Them to the Food
Local Guides Share Cities’ Culinary Secrets
By JEFF GORDINIER
Published: July 30, 2013
It’s that line of thinking that explains the rise, over the last few years, of a new kind of travel specialist — so new, in fact, that they haven’t coined a name for the job. For now, let’s call them the food sherpas.
Just as a traditional Sherpa guide helps a mountain climber navigate the stresses and mysteries of a Himalayan peak, a food sherpa is a local expert who brings a hungry traveler to pockets of the culinary landscape that may otherwise seem out of reach.
You’ll find them in Paris and Barcelona, in Malaysia and Mexico. But don’t go looking for a long, tortoise-paced phalanx of tourists in white sneakers trailing behind a guide who’s waving a flag and barking memorized data through a megaphone. Food sherpas pride themselves in offering something different: an experience that gives small groups of visitors (sometimes as few as 2, and rarely more than 12) an intimate encounter with what’s off the eaten path.
The Atlantic Wire
All the Young Foodies Want to Be ‘Food Sherpas’
Alexander Abad-Santos 11:32 AM ET (July 31, 2013—ed.)
The “food sherpa” is not a novel concept. He or she is better known as that random guy or gal on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Parts Unknown who usually takes Bourdain out to eat in some hole-in-the-wall for local fare and perhaps a piece of offal or two. Now, The New York Times reports there’s money to be made from this trend, as people now want “food sherpas” of their own. According to a report in today’s Dining section, when people travel, they want to travel the way Bourdain does it—find some strip mall joint serving the best phở in the city that only the locals know about.
“It’s that line of thinking that explains the rise, over the last few years, of a new kind of travel specialist — so new, in fact, that the cognoscenti haven’t yet coined a name for the job. “For now, let’s call them the food sherpas**,” The Times‘s Jeff Gordinier writes. Some of these people also go by the title “Epicurean Concierge,” while other guides-in-training seem to be hardcore foodies or semi-popular food bloggers. I like the term “food fixer,” but only because I watch too much Scandal.
** As The Washington Post‘s Anup Kaphlehave pointed out, Sherpa is actually a term that refers to an ethnic group from Nepal, not a profession. Yes, there are Sherpas who are adept at navigating mountain ranges in the Himalayas, but the word has become a Western synonym or shorthand to refer to a guide. I’ve amended and tried to minimize the Gordinier’s term in this piece.