Chef Mike Davis looks back, honors inspirations as Terra celebrates 8th anniversary

Many things have changed over the past eight years in the Midlands, and many businesses have come and gone, but Chef Mike Davis’ Terra has remained. Davis will celebrate the restaurant’s eighth anniversary this week by paying tribute to some of the people who, as he puts it, “shaped us to become what we are today.”

Terra celebrates its eighth anniversary beginning Friday (photo by Allen Wallace).

Terra celebrates its eighth anniversary beginning Friday. (photo by Allen Wallace)

Davis will cook a different special dish each night for eight nights beginning Friday, representing cookbooks, chefs, mentors and experiences that have inspired Davis over the years.

Davis said Columbia’s restaurant scene has changed for the better since Terra opened in 2006.

“It’s really picking up steam,” he said. “More and more local restaurants have come in, and it’s making the scene better each year.

Though the expanding list of food options means more competition, Davis does not mind.

“It’s great. We welcome it,” he said. “We’re not afraid of competition, and more good restaurants means a better reputation for Columbia, and that’s good for all of us.”

Davis claims one popular food trend in Columbia started with Terra.

“I think we were the first in Columbia to focus on local ingredients,” Davis said. “We kind of spearheaded that movement, and being the front-runner has definitely helped us out.”

The menu at Terra changes nightly, and Davis said becoming established and gaining the trust of customers has given him more leeway.

“We had some good ideas when we came in, but we’ve evolved a lot since,” Davis said. “People are more open-minded now. They’re more willing to see French and Italian words on the menu and not be put off.”

Davis’ anniversary creations will include a special wood-oven pizza inspired by his first kitchen job in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, his own riff on the Down South egg roll at Magnolias of Charleston, where he says his serious interest in food began, Coriander shrimp with black bean cake inspired by award-winning Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona, in New Orleans, where Davis learned the ins and outs of a chef-driven restaurant, and baked grits with country ham and wild mushrooms, a favorite dish of Chef Frank Stitt’s. Davis found a love for bistro cooking while working at Stitt’s Chez Fonfon in Birmingham, Alabama.

Chef Mike Davis of Terra (photo provided)

Chef Mike Davis of Terra (photo provided)

Davis also is inviting everyone to share their favorite Terra dishes and experiences through the years via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter through Thursday for the chance to win dinner for two.

“We think this is an appropriate time to thank our guests,” Davis said. He added that he hopes these eight years have been just the beginning. “We’re dug in,” he said. “Business is better than it’s ever been. We’re showing people a good time, and that’s what it’s all about.

Terra is just over the Gervais Street bridge at 100 State St. in West Columbia. More information on the restaurant and menu can be found here.

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