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Meet the chef: Mike Davis of Columbia, SC’s Terra

We’re taking our tastebuds on a road trip to the state capital and getting to know the chef behind a local favorite.

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Chef Mike Davis in apron and uniform standing in restaurant

Chef Mike Davis opened Terra back in 2006, and the restaurant has received numerous awards and accolades in the years since.

Photo courtesy of Sean Rayford

Have you eaten your way through SC’s state capital recently? With a number of food districts in and around the city, it’s easy to plan an itinerary around Columbia’s culinary offerings. The hard part is narrowing down your options.

One spot we love to stop at when we’re in the area: Terra, located in West Columbia just over the picturesque Gervais Street Bridge. We recently got to pick the brain of its owner and executive chef, Mike Davis — here’s what he had to say:

Q: How long have you been a chef at Terra? What do you enjoy most about working there?

A: We opened Terra 16 years ago. The thing that I most enjoy about owning a restaurant is my interaction with our guests. I tell my cooks all the time that outside of being a rock star, very few professions have the ability to instantly see how your work affects others. When people are at a table with their friends and loved ones, and they are stoked from the experience of eating at my restaurant, there is nothing better. It never gets old to me, and allows me to forget the long hours and hard work.

Q: What is your cooking style?

A: Seasonal is how I best describe it. I always try to work with produce that is in season together. It allows us to work with nature, and highlight what comes from the earth at that time of year.

Q: What are your favorite items on the menu?

A: Honestly, it’s always what is newest on the menu at that moment. Right now that would be our “brussel-nomoyaki,” a take on the traditional Japanese cabbage pancake using crispy Brussels instead of cabbage — and a batter. Also, it is soft shell crab season, which is the ultimate in seasonality. We only have them for a few weeks each spring!

Q: Describe the Columbia restaurant scene in a few words.

A: I think it is evolving. I love to see new places opening, serving different cuisines, and the city embracing all of it.

Wondering what restaurants to add to your list in addition to Terra? Learn more about Cola’s culinary scene.*

BON APPETIT, RAL

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