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A Look at the Lox Sherpa

A tale of Yiddish, Mt. Everest, and one-sided lox

Adam Chandler
November 05, 2012

In case you’re one of the five people who did not have this story forwarded to you–which is entirely different than being one of the five people you meet in heaven–then you might not have heard about the Lox Sherpa. Over the weekend, there was a profile of Chhapte Sherpa, who works for the Lower East Side mainstay Russ and Daughters (which won our coveted “Best Hamantaschen” title back in 2010).

Sherpa, of the guiding-climbers-up-Mt.-Everest Sherpas, grew up in Nepal, moved to the States, ended up in Alabama(!), before eventually settling in New York where he has earned a cult following among New Yorkers who frequent Russ and Daughters.

A dozen years ago, he moved to New York. A Chinatown employment agency found him a job at Sable’s smoked fish shop on the Upper East Side. After 18 months he was hired by Russ & Daughters, where he learned how to work quickly during the High Holy Days rush, and picked up some Yiddish from Jose and Herman, two Dominican immigrants who have each worked in the shop for more than 30 years.

They taught him, for example, that a “bissel” of cream cheese was just a light “schmear,” and that all the staff members are “mishpukah” — part of the Russ family.

Most important, they taught him how to cut lox “thin enough to read a newspaper through it,” Mr. Sherpa said. Now, he has his own following of customers, including the film producer Robert Evans, he said. Mr. Evans likes his Nova lox so thin that, as the employees at the shop say, it only has one side.

A fantastic story.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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