Sam Panopoulos, the 83-year-old inventor of one of the most divisive foods known to man, died peacefully at the University Hospital in London, Ontario on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Panopoulos came up with the idea of adding pineapple to pizza in 1962, and the world has never been the same since.
The notion of adding pineapple to pizza started in a little pizza shop in Chatham, Ontario, a sleepy little town about 180 miles from Toronto and just over the border from Detroit. Panopoulos owned the restaurant with his two brothers, with whom he emigrated to Canada from Greece. According to Panopoulos, adding the pineapple was just an experiment.
“We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste. We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments.”
The tropical name for the style of pizza came from the can of pineapples that was used to make the first one. The brothers weren’t sure how the pizza combination was going to work out, but customers loved how the pineapple added a hint of sweetness to the savory pizza flavor. The popularity is also attributed to the popular tiki trend that had seized North America during the mid-century, when Polynesian culture was all the rage.
Pro-Pineapple? No Pineapple?
It seems like the debate over whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza crops up every few years. Recently, Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson caused a huge debate when he told a student at the Akureyri High School that if he could, he’d ban pineapple from being put on pizzas in Iceland. The cheeky answer was followed up by noting that the president of Iceland isn’t allowed to pass laws, so Hawaiian pizzas were safe for the moment.
Jóhannesson’s stance on pineapple on pizza caused a furious debate over whether pineapple truly belongs on pizza, with various celebrities falling on either side of the pineapple divide.
Jimmy Kimmel went public with his no pineapple stance during a monologue on his late night talk show. He said, “Pineapples do not belong on pizza. I don’t care where you’re from. Any pizza that tastes better with pineapple wasn’t a good pizza. It’s not even a pizza it’s like a pizza colada.”
T.J. Miller & Thomas Middleditch, both stars of Silicon Valley, approve of pineapple now. When they were kids, they didn’t understand it and avoided it, but as adults, they find that it’s a treat.
Another famous pro-pineapple star is Paris Hilton, who stands by her love of Hawaiian pizza. She joins Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who fell firmly in the pro-pineapple camp when he tweeted, “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation. #TeamPineapple.”
Jay Leno, the former late night talk show host, however, disagrees. He is a no pineapple believer, saying that he doesn’t believe that pineapple belongs on pizza at all. In that, he and Gordon Ramsay are in agreement. The celebrity chef hosted The Nightly Show on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, and was ordering pizzas for the audience. An audience member suggested that Ramsay order a pineapple pizza, to which the chef responded succinctly.
“You don’t put f***ing pineapple on pizza.”
Countering Chef Ramsay’s brilliant opinion, Alton Brown, star of The Food Network, weighed in, saying that he doesn’t think anyone should be able to tell anyone else what they can or can’t have on their pizza. Brown thinks that you can put whatever you feel like on a pizza, whether you’re a classicist or not.
While Sam Panopoulos’ family may be mourning the pizza chef’s passing, they can at least take solace in how their pizza patriarch’s dabble into the culinary unknown spawned so much love and debate around the world.
[Featured Image by Dan Kosmayer/Shutterstock]