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Ever wonder who, exactly, the Seinfeld character "Soup Nazi" was based on? Who is that man who ran the eatery in Manhattan called Soup Kitchen International where the soup was so good that people stood in long lines to get it - hence the genesis for the "Soup Nazi" idea? Why, it was Chef Al Yeganeh! And pretty soon we're all going to get to know him - and his wonderful soups - a little more.

Ali "Al" Yeganeh, sometimes referred to as the "Original SoupMan," worked at the Soup Kitchen International at 8th Avenue and 55th Street (259A West 55th Street) in New York City. His superb-tasting soups and abrasive manner of hurrying slow customers along provided the basis for the Soup Nazi character Yev Kasem - played by Larry Thomas - on a seventh-season episode of Seinfeld. Even though the episode made him and his eatery famous, he has always resented the association with the show and found the term "soup Nazi" offensive. In December 1997, upon hearing that the television show would conclude that May, he said it was "the best gift America and the human race got this Christmas. The show really destroyed my personal life and my emotional and physical well-being. Because of this show, customers think I'm going to kill them and they panic." He has also been quoted as saying he'd like to slap Jerry Seinfeld in the face.

But maybe he's had a change of heart.

On Friday, April 22, 2005, it was announced that, after years of batting around the idea, Soup Kitchen International, Inc., which touts investors such as Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, that it will begin a retail line of "heat-n-serve" soups next month that will be available in select grocery stores. It will be more widely available next fall. And the Seinfeld link will, apparently, be promoted, so maybe Al's anger towards the sitcom has subsided.

The soups will come in 15-ounce packages and tout flavors including turkey chili, jambalaya and seafood bisque, to name a few. They will cost anywhere from $3.50-$5.50. Yeganeh himself will supervise the production of the soup to make sure they stay true to his original recipes.

In a statement released by Chairman and CEO of Soup Kitchen International John Bello, Al's superb soups "will define the super premium soup category, while adding a dash of attitude and fun to his recipes with his 'soupside' manner..." They do sound tasty and this noder will be checking those out, of that you can be sure.

Also in the works are plans to open a thousand Original SoupMan restaurants over the next seven years in the United States and Canada. Now, besides his excellent culinary talents, that the Seinfeld fame has perhaps made him wealthy beyond belief, Al still says he does not want to be associated with the show, but does give a nod to the jokes in it.

Mad props to Servo5678 for pointing out the Soup Nazi character's name.


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