This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
It’s the single most popular kind of pizza in Australia and one of the most popular in the world: With its unique combination of savory ham and sweet pineapple, the Hawaiian pizza actually originated in Chatham, Ontario.
“Pizza wasn’t known at all in those days,” the dish’s Greek-Canadian creator Sam Panopoulos has said. “[Not] even in Toronto. The only place you could have pizza was in Detroit,” he’s said.
After immigrating to Canada in the 1930s, Panopoulos moved to Halifax, then northern Ontario, where he worked in the mines, before opening several restaurants with brothers Elias and Nikitas.
In 1962, while working at The Satellite, his Southern-Ontario-based family restaurant, Panopoulos lamented on the limited options for pizza toppings while thinking up ideas to attract new customers.
Back then, the few restaurants that did serve pizza offered the doughy dish smothered in tomato sauce and cheese with only pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, or a combination of those choices.
Panopoulos took a bacon pizza and added ham and pineapple, naming the creation the “Hawaiian”, after the brand of canned pineapple he decided to throw into the mix.
Just months before Panopoulos’ 2017 death at age 83, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, celebrated this slice of Canadian history via Twitter: “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation.”