- "No soup for you!"
- ―Yev Kassem.[src]
Yev Kassem is a stone-faced immigrant chef with a thick Stalin-esque moustache, well known throughout the city for his delicious soups. He demanded that all customers in his restaurant follow his meticulous (and seemingly arbitrary) soup-ordering instructions to the letter, lest they be refused service by his insistent avowal, "No soup for you!" The customer is then refunded, denied his or her order, and, sometimes, banned from his soup shop for a specific duration. This leads to Kassem being christened with the less-than-flattering nickname, the Soup Nazi.
Kassem is portrayed by Larry Thomas, who received a nomination for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance.
In “The Soup Nazi”, Jerry Seinfeld introduces George Costanza and Elaine Benes to a soup restaurant run by a draconian owner, whom the customers have nicknamed the “Soup Nazi”, having first learned about it from Cosmo Kramer. Jerry tells George and Elaine about the restaurant's strict rules, but when they arrive and place their orders, the Soup Nazi apparently accidentally forgets to give George bread. George points it out, and the Soup Nazi spitefully charges him two dollars extra, despite apparently having given previous customers free bread, and brings it up to three dollars when George protests, and finally ejects George from the restaurant, telling him "No soup for you!"
George later tries again and is successful, but Elaine disregards Jerry's warning and tries to flatter the Soup Nazi by telling him he resembles Al Pacino. The Soup Nazi feigns amusement but bans Elaine from his shop for a whole year ("You know something? No soup for you! Come back, one year!"). Later, Kramer befriends the Soup Nazi and tells him about an armoire that was recently stolen from a friend (actually Elaine), while Newman places an order almost like a robot. In appreciation for Kramer's friendship, the Soup Nazi offers him his own armoire. A Hispanic customer orders Gazpacho, but the Soup Nazi is not amused by the man's "Por favor" and ejects him as well ("Adiós, muchacho!"). Elaine later returns to the restaurant to thank the Soup Nazi for the armoire, but he becomes enraged and shouts out that he would have destroyed the armoire had he known it was for her, when in all irony Kenny Bania had noticed the Soup Nazi was in a good mood just seconds earlier.
Later on, after ejecting another customer ("Go on! Leave! Get out!"), the Soup Nazi is confronted a third time by Elaine, who reveals that she found his secret recipes in the armoire. Baffled, the Soup Nazi can do nothing as Elaine basks in her vengeance and announces her intention to publish the recipes. His fate is left unknown in the episode, but Newman tells Jerry that he is closing the soup stand and moving to Argentina.
The Soup Nazi returns in "The Finale", where his real name, Yev Kassem, is revealed. He is called to court to testify against Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer and is the penultimate witness. He relays the story about his interactions with the characters and how Elaine published his recipes, ruining his business and forcing him to move to Argentina. Elaine quietly belittles Kassem's soup, enraging him. As the jury decides on their verdict, Kassem is seen serving soup to Babu Bhatt, Robin, Mr. Lippman and Poppie, all of whom praise the soup's quality. Poppie, however, asks for salt, which prompts Kassem to take Poppie's soup and spoon off him. He is present when Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer are acquitted/convicted.
- "I didn't really like what you said, "No soup for you", making fun of the whole program, Carol."
- ―Ali Yeganeh during an interview with CNN.
His character was based on an actual New York City soup vendor named Ali "Al" Yeganeh, who runs Soup Kitchen International in midtown Manhattan. The store is open only part of the year. In the summer, his customers are greeted with a sign indicating he has gone to "Argentina for the winter." In contrast to the character, who seems to be of Arabic descent, Al is Iranian.
According to an AP Article published April 29, 2005, Al plans to open a chain of soup stores under the name "The Original Soup Man" across the country. The first franchise was slated to open in Ridgewood, NJ in the summer of 2005. His company, Soup Kitchen International, plans to open 1,000 outlets nationwide. Another franchise of the Original Soup Man recently opened in Princeton, NJ. Soup Kitchen International's original West 55th Street location was closed for many years but re-opened July 20, 2010. Al was not at the location on opening day but it is rumored he will reappear at some point.
Prior to his fictional counterpart's appearance on Seinfeld, the real Al Yeganeh was unflatteringly referred to by local patrons as the "Terrorist." His soups were renowned for their excellent quality, but his interactions with customers seemed somewhat capricious. Some were granted extra side items like candy or bread, but no clear rules for this attention were ever established; this was referenced in the episode by George's incident with the bread.
Before the episode was written, much of the cast of Seinfeld (including Jason Alexander and Wayne Knight) had been to Soup Kitchen International. Following "The Soup Nazi"'s airing on TV, one day, during production of the eighth season of Seinfeld, Jerry and several writers went to Al's West 55th Street shop for lunch. Upon recognizing Jerry, Al launched into a profanity-laced rant about how "The Soup Nazi" had ruined his life; he demanded an apology. Jerry gave what show writer Spike Feresten described as "the most sarcastic, insincere apology" he'd ever heard. Al bellowed "No soup for you!" and ejected Jerry and his friends from the restaurant. Despite this, Al later admitted that since the episode, his business had flourished, but he was still angry with Jerry for portraying him so negatively.
Since the episode's airing, Al has become a figure of both entertainment and ridicule. During an interview with CNN, Al voiced his contempt for the news anchor mentioning Seinfeld and the "No Soup For You" phrase, accusing her of making fun of the interview and claiming that Seinfeld, whom he repeatedly referred to as a "clown", was taking credit for his hard work. John Bello, his partner in his company, had to calm him down several times and ask calmly for CNN to refrain from mentioning Seinfeld while he himself struggled not to laugh more than once. On YouTube, a video was posted of an amateur reporter asking Al questions in his soup stand. Though Al answered her questions, he insulted and disrespected her numerous times for allegedly touching the ladle to try one of his soups. When Al accused her of having "no brain", the reporter finally snapped and called him "Soup Nazi", upon which Al called her a "stupid idiot bad bitch" and walked out of the interview.
Despite Al's apparent dislike for the Soup Nazi character, actor Larry Thomas claimed in an interview that he had met Al in person and they had gotten along rather well, with Al admitting that he was amused by Thomas's performance. Al acquiesced for Thomas to serve his soup as the Soup Nazi on the opening day of one of the Original Soup Man franchises in Roosevelt Field mall. Thomas himself praised Al's work and proclaimed it as the best soup he had ever tasted.
According to Nora Ephron's DVD commentary, the first pop culture reference to Al (though not by name) seems to have come years before the Seinfeld episode, in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle. In the film, a magazine writer discusses writing a story: "This man sells the greatest soup you have ever eaten, and he is the meanest man in America. I feel very strongly about this, Becky; it's not just about the soup."
Notes About Nothing
- Like Jackie Chiles, the Soup Nazi has appeared in commercials after the end of the series. The Center for Consumer Freedom has him denying food to people he considers too fat.
- During Super Bowl XLVI, the Soup Nazi and Jerry Seinfeld appear for Acura. Jerry claims he "owns the characters" when he offers him to a man who is next to get an Acura. At the end of the commercial, he was seen with Jerry, a modern munchkin, and an alien where they are angered at the fact that Jay Leno beat Seinfeld in the Acura deal.
- In the background, you can see a sign in the restaurant saying "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
- Al Yeganeh, proprietor of Soup Kitchen International, dislikes the Nazi label but is renowned both for his excellent soups and for his rude treatment of customers. During production for Season 8, Al encountered Jerry Seinfeld and several staffers at his West 55th Street shop. He chastised Jerry because he felt that the episode had ruined his life. Al angrily (and profanely) demanded that Jerry apologize. Jerry insincerely and sarcastically told Al, "I'm sorry." Needless to say, apology not accepted: Al expelled Jerry and the others from his shop. Cosmo Kramer's inspiration, Kenny Kramer, agrees that Al's nickname is unfair, and jokingly suggests his nickname be changed to "Al, The Soup Rat Bastard".
- In "The Finale", the Soup Nazi referring to Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer as "idiot clowns" is a reference to Ali Yeganeh referring to Jerry Seinfeld as a "clown" in real life.
Some of the soups that the Soup Nazi served were cold cucumber, corn and clam chowders, jambalaya, turkey chili, mulligatawny, crab and lobster bisques.
- MED 16 OZ. $2.99
- LARGE 32 OZ. $3.99
- Crab Bisque
- Turkey Chili
- Black Bean
- Chicken Broccoli
- Clam Bisque
- Split Pea
- French Onion
- Mushroom Barley
- Tomato Rice
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A blog dedicated to the legality of the issues that arise in Seinfeld episodes, Seinfeld Law, has analyzed many of the classic Yev Kassem moments as they might have played out in a court of law.