Food Industry

George Costanza Joins Forces With the Soup Nazi

The Soup Nazi episode remains one of Seinfeld's most famous. You surely remember: The gang heads to Al Yeganeh's Soup Kitchen (still at 55th Street and Eighth Avenue), but not before George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, is warned to "follow the rules" -- which means placing one's order in a certain manner. Otherwise Al, the Soup Nazi, will become quite upset. George fails to follow the rules and gets tossed from the shop, with Yeganeh shouting, "No soup for you!"

Al Yeganeh went on to expand his real-life Original SoupMan business to include franchised restaurants, a line of soups sold in supermarkets, and food service operations that supply schools and institutions. Now Alexander has joined his former fictional nemesis as "Brand Champion" for these aforementioned projects of SoupMan, Inc. (The company prefers Soup Man to Soup Nazi, the latter term presumably not deemed suitable for promo material.)

"I think it's great coming full circle with Al's Soups," Alexander says. "I lined up with New Yorkers for years for his amazing creations. Then we had one of the greatest episodes of Seinfeld ever, somewhat at his expense. But now I get to make amends by helping bring his recipes to everyone... Finally, I get to say, 'Soup for you! Soup for everyone!'"

One of the major new products that Costanza, um, Alexander will be helping to brand are the Original SoupMan soups in Tetra Recart cartons, which are coming to a supermarket aisle near you (this packaging allows longer shelf stability). Varieties available will be lobster bisque, chicken noodle, lentil, and tomato bisque.

The New York branch of the Original SoupMan opened in 1984. That shop was so small it didn't have a single table, yet it became a renowned establishment -- rated number one by Zagat and praised by the New York Times as "Art, Not Soup." Amazingly, those accolades came before the Seinfeld episode. In fact, Al's tagline used to be "The soup that made Seinfeld famous."

After the show aired, SoupMan drew fans from around the world, and the company expanded to Fisherman's Wharf, Mohegan Sun Casino, and plenty of other places, including Aventura. That's where I sampled the soups (in 2007), and although it was generally acknowledged that the franchised versions weren't as good as the original soups cooked by Al, I thought the lobster bisque was great.

Alas, the Aventura franchise didn't make it, but as Alexander will no doubt be letting you know, beginning this month you will be able to pick some up at the supermarket. You might also be seeing Reggie Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal smiling while holding up Yeganeh's soups; the two sports stars are also advisers, equity partners, and "Brand Champions" for the company.

Evidently Kramer wasn't available.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein