Sam Panopoulos, a Greek-Canadian restauranteur who spurred a worldwide phenomenon by deciding to add pineapples to pizza, has died. Panopoulos, credited as the inventor of the Hawaiian pizza, died suddenly at a hospital in London, Ontario last Thursday, family members said. He was 83.
Though there remains some dispute about its true origins (some argue it’s from Australia), Panopoulos, who ran a restaurant in Chatham, Ontario—50 miles east of Detroit—called Satellite, is acknowledged as the man who popularized this beloved and loathed pizza style. The year was 1962, and Panopoulos thought pineapple chunks and ham on pizza was an intriguing combination. The dish proved to be a hit, and spread beyond Southern Ontario to as far as away as Australia, where Hawaiian remains the country’s most popular pizza style.
Panopoulos found himself in the news this past February, when Icelandic president Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson said during a high school visit that a law should be passed banning pineapples on pizza. The statement was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it didn’t stop various news outlet from contacting Panopoulos for a reaction. His response: “I don’t care what he does. He can say whatever he wants. He sells the fish over there, you know, that’s all he does. So he has to put the fish on the pizza.”