The True Klondike Pizza Story


Klondike founders, Mike and Pam Dennis,
met in 1986 while filming a restoration project for This Old House for PBS in the northern village of Reellykuld, AK.

Mike, an Arctic Snow Dome (igloo) contractor had bought a once very grand 15 room Igloo built by Inuit (Eskimo) Indians in 1908. In recent years, the igloo had fallen into disrepair and Mike was restoring it.

Pam was the “assistant producer” (a glorified title for “gopher”) of the show. Her main responsibilities were making sure that PBS Superstar Bob Vila’s cue cards were in correct order (it’s embarrassing to ask a plumbing question while someone is laying bricks), and that he always had pizza available. Not too many people know this about Bob, but in the mid-70’s, he lost over 300 pounds on the “Pizza Diet.” So he was a fanatic about having pizza for every meal. Normally this was not a problem for Pam, but in Reellykuld, there was no pizza parlor. Evidently, pizza ovens melt igloos.

It turned out that Mike’s Italian/Eskimo grandmother had taught him how to cook pizza over an open fire (BBQ’d Pizza) when he was a child, so he taught Pam, and together they made reindeer, walrus, halibut and moose pizzas for the whole crew.

It took several months to restore the igloo back to its former grandeur, and when they were through, Bob couldn’t leave soon enough. He was tired of being really cold and was dying for pepperoni pizza. He told Pam to make arrangements for the show to restore the Hearst Castle, but when that deal fell through, they went to Arroyo Grande, CA to restore a rundown cottage.

As usual, Bob wanted pizza, but nothing was as good as the pizza Mike and Pam had served him in Alaska – so all he did was complain. By this time, Pam was pretty darn tired of Bob’s whining and realized her heart belonged to Mike. But the thought of living in the palatial igloo in Alaska left her cold. What she didn’t know was that Mike had donated the igloo to Reellykuld (and got a nice tax write-off) and was already on his way to Arroyo Grande to profess his love.

Long story short: Pam quit her job, they got married, and opened the first Klondike in 1988 in the Village of Arroyo Grande (Bob was their first customer) and the Santa Maria Klondike in 1996… and lived happily ever after.

In 1980, young Bobby Flay was on a halibut fishing trip with his Dad and Mike. Bill and Mike were old school chums.  On that trip, Mike taught Bobby (he was 15 at the time) how to barbecue pizza. Years later Bobby became famous for his barbecued pizza but has never given Mike credit. 

Honestly, that’s the last one…except for the next one.
Click here for the
Factual Story of how Klondike Pizza came to be.