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Chef Spotlight: Mike Davis of Terra, Columbia

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Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Chef Mike Davis
Mike Davis, executive chef of Terra in Columbia

As a standard-bearer for local, seasonal ingredients, Chef Mike Davis grew up close to the ground in a farming family in Dothan, Alabama. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in business administration, he moved to Charleston, SC, to attend Johnson & Wales. While in school, he worked at Magnolia's under Chefs Donald Barickman and Don Drake.

To further hone his palate-expanding Southern style, Davis then moved to New Orleans where he worked under James Beard Award-winning Chef Susan Spicer at Bayona and as a sous chef at Cobalt. Davis then stepped up to an extremely rewarding position working as sous chef at Birmingham's Chez Fon Fon under Chef Frank Stitt, another James Beard Award winner. Under these chefs, Chef Davis refined his passion for using fresh ingredients from local producers whenever possible and learned to let the ingredients speak for themselves while simply prepared.

In 2005, Davis opened the doors of Terra in Columbia, SC, where he's successfully making a mark on the regional and national map for his seasonal preparation of the area's most loved dishes - but always with his own update. The menu changes nightly. Chef Davis is actively involved with Slow Food Columbia and has appeared on SCETV public television explaining the importance of using sustainable, local ingredients. He leads a full staff, which also includes a Certified Specialist of Wine.

Chef Davis was asked to cook for Taste of the South, the annual Southern Foodways Alliance benefit at Blackberry Farm, in January of 2009. He was also featured as Restaurant Hospitality's September 2009 Rising Star and has recently been interviewed twice on NPR's A Chef's Table. In February 2010, Chef Davis was invited to cook his Southern Roots dinner at the esteemed James Beard House in New York City for a sold-out crowd of diners.

Most recently, Terra has qualified for membership in Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) in the creative contemporary category. Terra is one of six restaurants in South Carolina, and the only restaurant outside of Charleston, to have earned this distinction.

Staff Writer
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.