Greek-Canadian Sam Panopoulos, Inventor of Hawaiian Pizza Dies

LONDON, Ontario (AP) — A Canadian man widely credited with inventing the pineapple-topped pizza has died at age 83.

An obituary by his family said Sam Panopoulos had been in hospital in London, Ontario, when he died suddenly on Thursday.

Panopoulos was born in Greece and emigrated to Canada in 1954. He told numerous news media that he made his first “Hawaiian” pizza in 1962 at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, after wondering if canned pineapple might make a tasty topping.

Some have disputed his claim. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this year issued a light-hearted tweet of support, referring to the dish as “a delicious southwestern Ontario creation.”

He was responding to a joking suggestion by Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson that pineapple pizzas should be banned.

One of Panopoulos’ sons described his father as a dedicated family man who “wasn’t looking to get famous.”

Bill Panopoulos said he didn’t want to comment further, adding “the Hawaiian pizza story and his immigrant story were his to tell.”

Panopoulos’ funeral is set for Monday.

Sam Panopoulos emigrated from Greece to Canada in 1954 at the age of 20 and ran several restaurants in Ontario with his two brothers.

With his brothers Elias and Nikitas, Panopoulos owned the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, where in 1962 he had the idea to add canned pineapple to pizza.

His most famous creation would result from an experiment: one day Panopoulos decided to put tinned pineapple on a pizza to find out how it would taste. “We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste,” he told the BBC earlier this year. “We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments.”

Greek – Canadian Sam Panopoulos claims that he created the first Hawaiian pizza at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, Canada in 1962. Inspired in part by his experience preparing Chinese dishes which commonly mix sweet and sour flavours, Panopoulos experimented with adding pineapple, ham, bacon and other toppings which were not initially very popular. The addition of pineapple to the traditional mix of tomato sauce and cheese, sometimes with ham or sometimes with bacon, soon became popular locally and eventually became a staple offering of pizzerias around the world.

He and his brothers liked the contrast between the sweetness of the pineapple and the savoury flavour of the ham. “We tried it first, [then] passed it to some customers. And a couple of months later, they’re going crazy about it, so we put it on the menu.”

It was called the Hawaiian after the brand of tinned pineapple used.

Panopoulos and his wife Christina were married for 50 years. He died unexpectedly at University Hospital in London, Ontario on 8 June 2017.