As It Happens

Canadian inventor of Hawaiian pizza defends pineapple after Iceland's president disses fruit topping

After the president of Iceland announced he was fundamentally opposed to pineapple on pizza, we decided to call up Sam Panopoulos, the Canadian inventor of the Hawaiian pie, to vouch for his creation.
Hawaiian pizza, pineapple pizza (El Nariz/Shutterstock)

Update: Sam Panopoulos died Thursday, June 8. Below, is our interview with him recorded on Feb. 21, 2017.

Read story transcript

The president of Iceland has made a bold, shocking statement about a Canadian invention.

Sam Panopoulos

President Guoni Johannesson recently told a group of high school students during a Q&A that he was fundamentally opposed to pineapple on pizza — and that's not all. He went on to say if he could, he would ban pineapple as a pizza topping.

We demanded an interview with the president. He was not available. But his office did send along a statement which was also shared on Facebook.

For a more detailed rebuttal, we decided to call up the authority on all things pineapple and pizza. Canadian Sam Panopoulos, 82, of London, Ont., is credited with inventing the Hawaiian pizza. 

Here's a slice of his conversation with guest host Helen Mann.

Helen Mann: The president of Iceland says pineapple on pizza should be illegal. You invented pineapple on pizza so what do you say to the president?
Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. (HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sam Panopoulos: Well, I invented it. That's what I've got to say. Why? Somebody has a patent on it?

HM: Well, he just doesn't like it and he thinks it's...

SP: When I was working on the pineapple pizza — he wasn't even born. It's so way back. There was no patent. Nobody owned it. Nobody owned the name or anything like this — how can it be illegal?

HM: Well, I mean he is the president of Iceland, I guess he has some power.

SP: He can have whatever he wants — I don't care. Listen, I don't get nothing out of it. He can do whatever he wants as far as I'm concerned.

HM: You haven't got a patent on the pineapple?

SP: No. I wish I had. Those days, when I first came up with it, there was nothing to it. You know what I mean? It was just another piece of bread cooking in the oven.

HM: What is it that inspired you to put pineapple on pizza?

SP: That was back in the late '50s, the '60s. Pizza wasn't in Canada — nowhere. Pizza was coming in through Detroit, through Windsor, and I was in Chatham then, that was the third stop. We had a restaurant there. We went down to Windsor a couple of times, and these places, and I said, "Let's try a pizza."

Then we tried to make some pizza. Along the way, we threw some pineapples on it and nobody liked it at first. But after that, they went crazy about it. Because those days nobody was mixing sweets and sours and all that. It was plain, plain food. Anyway, after that it stays. We sell pizzas in Chatham and in London for the next 40, 45 years. 

HM: Are there certain other toppings that go best with pineapple?

SP: Those days, the main thing was mushrooms, bacon and pepperoni. There was nothing else going on the pizza. After that, everybody started putting everything on it. You can put sardines on it. You can put salmon in it. You can put green peppers, onions, whatever you want you can put today — and everybody eats it.

HM: So you agree? Because the president of Iceland also says seafood is good on pizza.

SP: Yes, it is. But after my pineapple — tell him! 

HM: If the president of Iceland got to try a slice of your pineapple pizza do you think you might be able to change his mind?

SP: 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.

HM: Do you make any pizza these days?

SP: No, I eat pizza, but I don't make 'em anymore. I usually get those Dr. Oetker or whatever you call them. They're very light.

HM: The ones you get in the freezer?

SP: Yeah, yeah. They're very nice — thin crust and some of them have a nice soft crust.

HM: So you don't make your own pizza dough at home?

SP: No, I don't. I get sick and tired of making pizzas.

HM: Any final words for the president of Iceland?

SP: [Laughs] Well, I don't know the guy. He should know better. I'm sure he is a lot younger than I am and I was doing pizza when I was a young guy, you know what I mean?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Sam Panopoulos.