The Soup Nazi was portrayed by Larry Thomas, who was nominated for a 1996 Emmy for the role. Thomas, who did not realize that the character was based on a real person, received the inspiration for his portrayal from watching Lawrence of Arabia and studying Omar Sharif‘s accent.
A stone-faced immigrant chef with a thick Stalin-esque moustache, he is renowned throughout Manhattan for his soups. He demands that all customers in his restaurant meticulously follow his strict queuing, ordering, and payment policies. Failure to adhere to his demands brings the stern admonition (“No soup for you!”), whereupon the customer is refunded and denied his or her order. He will then yell at the top of his lungs to the next person in line, “Next!” Elaine parodies this when she reveals that she has his recipes. She says to him, “You’re through, Soup Nazi. Pack it up. No more soup for you. NEXT!”
The Soup Nazi has a cameo in the Seinfeld series finale, in which his name is revealed as Yev Kassem, which he refuses to spell. While serving his soup to people at the courthouse, Kassem is asked by Poppie for some salt. This angers Kassem, who takes away his soup.
The character was inspired by Al Yeganeh, a soup vendor who runs Soup Kitchen International in New York City. Yeganeh has stated on numerous occasions that he is very offended by the “Soup Nazi” moniker.
According to writer Spike Feresten, Jerry Seinfeld and several members of the production team went to Soup Kitchen International for lunch weeks after “The Soup Nazi” aired. Upon recognizing Seinfeld, Yeganeh went into a profanity-filled rant about how the show had “ruined” his business and demanded an apology. Seinfeld allegedly gave what Feresten describes as “the most insincere, sarcastic apology ever given”. Obviously having seen the episode, Yeganeh then bellowed, “No soup for you!” and ejected them from the restaurant.
According to Nora Ephron‘s DVD commentary, the first pop culture reference to Yeganeh (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.”