NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A New York City soup vendor made famous after he inspired Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" character on the popular TV show reopened his original Manhattan stall on Tuesday, but Al Yeganeh did not show up for the celebrations.
For 20 years Yeganeh -- who calls himself "The Original SoupMan" and detests the "Soup Nazi" character" -- dished out soup with very strict rules: "Pick the soup you want! Have your money ready! Move to the extreme left after ordering!"
If you did not stick to the rules: "No soup for you!"
But in 2004 Yeganeh closed the 100 square foot (9 square meter) stall on 55th street when he sold the rights to his business. He still controls the brand and his soups, which include lobster bisque, mulligatawny, crab bisque and lentil.
"He's still the heart of the company," said Bob Bertrand, "The Original SoupMan" president.
"We cannot change the recipes, we do not change the recipes, every time we want to have a new soup he develops it for us," he added. "We have the rules, but they're not enforced."
Yeganeh, who banned Jerry Seinfeld from his stall after the "Soup Nazi" episode aired in November 1995, lives just a short walk from his original soup stall, but did not show up for a ceremonial cutting of a zucchini to reopen the venue.
"That's his mystique," said Bertrand. "He's an artist and all artists are a little bit eccentric. This is his passion, he takes pride and he takes his soup very, very seriously.
"As much as they depicted him in Seinfeld, he's a businessman, he knew people were waiting for an hour, he didn't have time to chit chat. Move the line, get more people in, sell more soup," he said.
But while the "Soup Nazi" character made his famous, "he's never embraced Seinfeld," Bertrand said.
Since Yeganeh closed his original location, "The Original SoupMan" company has opened another 22 shops and his soups can also be bought online.
About 100 people lined up on Tuesday, some for up to an hour, to sample "The Original SoupMan's" wares. Several were tourists from as far away as Australia and Egypt.
"I just hope we order the soup right," joked Billy Simmons, 42, a caregiver for the elderly from Portland, Oregon. "The episodes about the 'Soup Nazi' are my favorite, so this is pretty cool," added his wife Laurie, 41, a foundation grants administrator.
And despite his ban, even Seinfeld stopped by the soup stall on the weekend ahead of its reopening.
"A car pulled up, the window came down and Jerry stuck his head out and said 'you really ought to take care of that guy, he's very important' and he smiled," said Bertrand.
There were 12 soups on the menu on Tuesday, including the company's most popular lobster bisque, which is also the most expensive with a large portion selling for $20.
"I just had my wisdom teeth out on Friday, so I can only eat soup," said Chris Baratta, a 24-year-old law student from Manhattan's Upper West Side, as he stood at the back of the line waiting to buy a lobster bisque soup.
"I love that Seinfeld episode," he said. "But I just want a taste of his goods, I don't have to see him in person."
Editing by Patricia Reaney