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Sam Panopoulos (1934 - 2017)

Wikimedia Commons / Janine

Sam Panopoulos (1934 - 2017)

Sam Panopoulos, the Canadian restaurateur credited with inventing the Hawaiian pizza, died Thursday, June 8, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 83.

His family announced that he died in a London, Ontario, hospital. Relatives did not disclose the cause of death.

Panopoulos and his brothers owned a restaurant called Satellite in Chatham, Ontario. In 1962, looking to spice up their menu, Sam added a can of sweet pineapple along with salty ham as toppings on a pizza; thus, the Hawaiian pizza was born.

In an interview with the website Atlas Obscura, Panopoulos explained, “The pizza in those days was … dough, sauce, cheese, and mushroom, bacon, or pepperoni. That was it. You had no choices; you could get one of the (toppings) or more of them together.”

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Pizza was hardly available in Canada at that time. Panopoulos went to Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit, and watched chefs making pizza. He took that knowledge back to his restaurant kitchen.

Panopoulos told the BBC about the birth of the Hawaiian pizza.

“We were young in the business, and we were doing a lot of experiments,” he said. “We tried it first, passed it to some customers. And a couple of months later, they’re going crazy about it. So we put it on the menu.”

Though pizza purists cringe at the thought of Hawaiian pizza, it has become a Canadian food icon. The sweet-and-salty dish stands alongside poutine, butter tarts, and maple syrup as one of the country’s national dishes.

Born Sotirios Panopoulos in Greece in 1934, he was 20 when he immigrated to Canada, later running several restaurants with brothers Elias and Nikitas Panopoulos.

He is survived by his wife, two children, and many grandchildren.

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