TBF: The NYer is running my 1989 piece on the real Soup Nazi today

The Talk of the Town JANUARY 23, 1989 ISSUE
When Albert Yeganeh says “Soup is my lifeblood,” he means it. And when he says “I am extremely hard to please,” he means that, too. Working like a demon alchemist in a tiny storefront kitchen at 259-A West Fifty-fifth Street, Mr. Yeganeh creates anywhere from eight to seventeen soups every weekday. His concoctions are so popular that a wait of half an hour at the lunchtime peak is not uncommon, although there are strict rules for conduct in line. But more on that later.
“I am psychologically kind of a health freak,” Mr. Yeganeh said the other day, in a lisping staccato of Armenian origin. “And I know that soup is the greatest meal in the world. It’s very good for your digestive system. And I use only the best, the freshest ingredients. I am a perfectionist. When I make a clam soup, I use three different kinds of clams. Every other place uses canned clams. I’m called crazy. I am not crazy. People don’t realize why I get so upset. It’s because if the soup is not perfect and I’m still selling it, it’s a torture. It’s my soup, and that’s why I’m so upset. First you clean and then you cook. I don’t believe that ninety-nine per cent of the restaurants in New York know how to clean a tomato. I tell my crew to wash the parsley eight times. If they wash it five or six times, I scare them. I tell them they’ll go to jail if there is sand in the parsley. One time, I found a mushroom on the floor, and I fired the guy who left it there.” He spread his arms, and added, “This place is the only one like it in . . . in . . . the whole earth! One day, I hope to learn something from the other places, but so far I haven’t. For example, the other day I went to a very fancy restaurant and had borscht. I had to send it back. It was junk. I could see all the chemicals in it. I never use chemicals. Last weekend, I had lobster bisque in Brooklyn, a very well-known place. It was junk. When I make a lobster bisque, I use a whole lobster. You know, I never advertise. I don’t have to. All the big-shot chefs and the kings of the hotels come here to see what I’m doing.”
As you approach Mr. Yeganeh’s Soup Kitchen International from a distance, the first thing you notice about it is the awning, which proclaims “HOMEMADE HOT, COLD, DIET SOUPS.” The second thing you notice is an aroma so delicious that it makes you want to take a bite out of the air. The third thing you notice, in front of the kitchen, is an electric signboard that flashes, say, “Today’s Soups . . . Chicken Vegetable . . . Mexican Beef Chili . . . Cream of Watercress . . . Italian Sausage . . . Clam Bisque . . . Beef Barley . . . Due to Cold Weather . . . For Most Efficient and Fastest Service the Line Must . . . Be Kept Moving . . . Please . . . Have Your Money . . . Ready . . . Pick the Soup of Your Choice . . . Move to Your Extreme . . . Left After Ordering. ”
“I am not prejudiced against color or religion,” Mr. Yeganeh told us, and he jabbed an index finger at the flashing sign. “Whoever follows that I treat very well. My regular customers don’t say anything. They are very intelligent and well educated. They know I’m just trying to move the line. The New York cop is very smart—he sees everything but says nothing. But the young girl who wants to stop and tell you how nice you look and hold everyone up—yah!” He made a guillotining motion with his hand. “I tell you, I hate to work with the public. They treat me like a slave. My philosophy is: The customer is always wrong and I’m always right. I raised my prices to try to get rid of some of these people, but it didn’t work.”
For the rest of the story, and a photo, please visit …