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Pemba Sherpa fills a need with Sonoma Food Taxi

Pemba Sherpa may be the hardest working man in Sonoma.

Early last year, he founded Sonoma Food Taxi, a new service that delivers meals from local restaurants to residences, business and hotels in and around town. Then, three months ago, he and a few partners purchased La Casa restaurant. And this month, he joined the board of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Sherpa got his start in Sonoma a decade ago working at the Red Grape – and, as if his plate wasn’t full enough, he still works the lunch shift. “It is the best job in town,” says Sherpa.

Sherpa was born and raised in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal, where he completed high school at the first school built by Sir Edmund Hillary. He graduated college in 2000 with a major in business management after having also completed a series of professional cooking lessons at the Kathmandu Hotel Institute. In 2001, he came to the U.S., where his first jobs included stints as a chef, a commercial truck driver and a real estate agent.  

Now, his innovative Food Taxi has six restaurants signed on as partners. Customers go online to sonomafoodtaxi.com and place their orders from such choices as La Casa, the Red Grape, Burgers & Vine, Taste of the Himalayas and Della Santina’s – and within an hour (and usually sooner) their food arrives. After customers place their order, they can get text updates on the status of their meal.

The delivery fee is a flat $5.99 for lunch or $7.99 for dinner for destinations within six miles of the Plaza. There is a $20 minimum order for lunch and $25 for dinner.

“It is a great option for people who want a nice meal but don’t want to drink and drive, or would prefer their meal with their own wine at home,” said Sherpa. “Some of our customers are older people who can’t drive, or families who are just too busy to cook or even to get out to the market,” he added. In less than a year, more than 650 customers have created Sonoma Food Taxi accounts.

“I can’t imagine what we would do without it,” said realtor Matt Sevenau, who uses the service at least once a week, along with his wife Brooke and their two children. “We try to eat healthy and cook at home but there are times when we are working late but we still want to provide our kids with a great meal. We think it is terrific service for a very fair price.”

Local restaurants like the service because they can offer delivery without incurring any labor costs for a dedicated delivery person, or liability insurance costs for delivery vehicle.

“We love that we can now offer delivery to our customers who, for whatever reason, can’t make it in to the restaurant,” said Sam Morphy, owner of the Red Grape.

Sherpa recently expanded his offerings to include general courier services, which can include picking up packages, prepaid groceries and wedding cakes. Customers suggest a fee, and Sherpa accepts or declines the job. “Some people have tried using cabs for these services but have found the cost to be much higher than what I can offer,” he said.

Between deliveries, Sherpa is busy finetuning La Casa, and managing the restaurant two days a week.

Sherpa’s enthusiasm for business in Sonoma makes him a perfect candidate to help lead the Chamber board. “Pemba has an entrepreneurial spirit and start-up experience in several different industries,” said Chamber director Patricia Shults. “His international experience coupled with his commitment to Sonoma Valley brings a unique perspective to our Board.”

You might assume that Pemba is related to the Sherpas who recently opened Sonoma Grille but he said, “There are over 80 Sherpas in this town and we are all good friends of each other but not all related, but we do help each other out.”

Sherpa’s energy and positive outlook are infectious, and have built him quite fan base in Sonoma. The feeling is mutual.

“People here are the best,” he said. “I love doing business in Sonoma.”

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.