Cooking Up Success

On campus or in the Pagoda, administrator serves with passion

On campus, Drucie Papafil, Director of Continuing Medical Education, manages EVMS’ education programming for healthcare providers. Off campus, she manages one of the area’s most recognizable event and dining establishments, the Pagoda in downtown Norfolk.

What sparked your interest in Norfolk's Pagoda?

Actually, The Pagoda Foundation contacted my husband to see if he was interested in opening and running the restaurant. Our lease was about to run out at The Norfolk Grille, and it seemed to be a good time to make this move. As far as the Pagoda itself, what an iconic building in Norfolk! A gift to the city from the Taiwanese government in the 1980s, the building alone is a piece of artwork. But then you add the beautiful surrounding Asian gardens, its location on the waterfront next to the USS Wisconsin, and it’s just a great setting.

What is your role at the Pagoda?

I feel I’ve done everything since we opened. Planned and designed the menu. Developed new recipes. Played sous chef. Shopped, shopped, shopped. I’ve even cleared tables and run the dishwasher — all, of course, after EVMS hours.

What are your favorite things to cook?

Chicken pot pie is still a favorite. I’ve got it down to a science after fixing it almost weekly at The Norfolk Grille for lunch specials for the last few years.

Where did you learn how to cook?

Definitely from my father and grandmother. The first dish I made for my dad was chicken cordon bleu when I was 12. I didn’t know basic culinary skills, so it was a mess. But he said it was delicious. As my grandmother was getting older, I sat with her one summer and learned to cook Greek dishes and pastries. That’s when I learned I hate to bake.

Do you see any connection between being a restaurateur and your work at EVMS?

Absolutely! You can only be successful if you have a good work ethic. You have to have a passion for what you do and love what you’re doing.

What are you most passionate about in your work at EVMS?

That I may make a difference. If your job is just a job, what do you have to show for it when it’s done? I also oversee our CME accreditation process. I’m proud to say that not only were we reaccredited this year, we also received Accreditation with Commendation, which is the highest form of CME accreditation offered.

Why did you choose EVMS?

EVMS chose me. I graduated from college in North Carolina in 1975 and moved to Norfolk. My first interview was with Dr. Mason Andrews. He hired me on the spot, and my next few years were exciting ones as he was intimately involved in the development of EVMS. He took me along for the ride. I watched the first graduating class come through their OB-GYN rotation. I still get excited when I see those “young faces” around today supporting our school — although many are ready for retirement.

How long have you been running restaurants?

I grew up in the restaurant business. My father always had anywhere from two to five restaurants at a time. We lived in Asheville, North Carolina, and he had the first pizza place in the ’50s and the first fish house in the ’60s. He started the largest catering company in our city during my teens, and I worked there every chance I could.