Al Yeganeh claims comedian Jerry Seinfeld ruined his life, but the "Soup Nazi's" restaurant franchise appears to have benefited from its portrayal in the television sitcom. Over the past year, Yeganeh and investors have opened a couple of dozen Original Soup Man eateries across the country, including one in December at Vermont's Stratton Mountain. Operator Dom Degiorgio says, "We're a lot more accommodating than him; we even let customers sample the soups." But "Seinfeld" fans familiar with the "Soup Nazi" episode often bellow, "No soup for you" as soon as they walk in the door.
"Until I met him a couple times, I thought it was an act," Degiorgio says of Yeganeh. "Now I'd say it's 90 percent genuine and 10 percent exploiting an opportunity . . . he's a very difficult person to get along with."
Dealing with Yeganeh's food - which is the same at all the franchises - is a whole lot easier. His recipes are whipped up at two production facilities, in New Jersey and Indiana. The product is packaged in Cryovac and flash-frozen to preserve flavor and texture. According to Degiorgio, "What's unique is how fresh, tasty and flavorful the soups are." The key? "Wholesome, top-quality ingredients." Before he agreed to invest in the company, Degiorgio conducted three different taste tests, sampling up to 40 soups each time.
Every day, Degiorgio says, the Stratton shop offers around 10 different soups. Crab or lobster bisque is always available. The other varieties cater to vegetarians, as well as seafood, meat and poultry lovers. Degiorgio's favorite is the Italian wedding soup, which is "as good as my grandmother used to make," he notes. He also recommends the mushroom barley, jambalaya and Cosmo Kramer's favorite, mulligatawny.
The hot stuff is pricey: $4.95-6.95 a cup, $6.95-8.95 a bowl; and the two seafood bisques cost even more - $8.95 a cup or $10.95 a bowl. It must be worth it, though, because the lobster bisque outsells all the other soups three to one. Each serving of soup comes with bread, a piece of fruit and some imported chocolate. Sandwiches and salads are also available.