The Blank Table ...

If you are adventurous and love food sprinkled with a touch of mystery, The Blank Table can give you all that and more - thanks to one of a kind and unforgettable dining experience. The Blank Table founders Alexandria Ott and Fred Keller struck a friendship while attending Coronado Middle School. That bond continued through high school, college, and playing tennis together. A few years ago, the two had an idea to use their combined strengths to offer a unique dinner series - Keller is a chef, while Ott is the founder of Chrome City, a creative agency.

If you are adventurous and love food sprinkled with a touch of mystery, The Blank Table can give you all that and more - thanks to one of a kind and unforgettable dining experience.

The Blank Table founders Alexandria Ott and Fred Keller struck a friendship while attending Coronado Middle School. That bond continued through high school, college, and playing tennis together. A few years ago, the two had an idea to use their combined strengths to offer a unique dinner series - Keller is a chef, while Ott is the founder of Chrome City, a creative agency.

At that time they were both living in Chicago - Ott was using her creative magic and Keller helped a number of restaurants open, as well as working as a chef at Roka Akor, a well-known Japanese Steakhouse, Sushi and Seafood restaurant. While they were catching up one day, Ott asked Keller about San Diego restaurants. “I asked him about what’s going on in San Diego in the culinary world. He said there are some cool restaurants…(San Diego had not caught on with the foodie thing) then he said ‘let’s do something together,’” recalled Ott.

In 2019 they decided to create The Blank Table, a four dinner series held once a month featuring a different menu and location each time. As part of the allure, the venue is not revealed until the day of the event, giving the evening a veil of mystery. While Keller creates the menus for each dinner, Ott takes care of finding the venue, which is not a restaurant, but a unique location. Past dinners have been held at an airport hangar, a tucked away tennis court, a private garden rooftop, a private dock on Harbor Island, a skateboard factory in Sherman Heights and a Mission Hills nursery.

Keller has spent half his life working in restaurants since he was 18. He and Ott are now 36. Keller’s life revolves around yachts - he works as a chef, a captain and a broker. “We both knew that financing a restaurant is not what we wanted…we wanted something that fits into our lives,” explained Ott. She is a mother of two young children and this type of venture is the perfect fit for her. “We both loved the other parts of our lives. This started as a fun, creative outlet…to bring community together through cuisine,” she said. “I do all the work up to it, finding obscure locations, planning the space, he does the menu development. We push the boundaries.” What Ott means by pushing the boundaries is that diners are presented with dishes that they may not normally order at a restaurant, as in the case of ox tail. Each menu is created using locally sourced ingredients and presentation of the dishes always has a special touch. “We present vegetables in a way people never tried before,” said Ott. In keeping with each dinner being different, cocktails are prepared by a mixologist which changes every time.

Ott with the help of Jillian Ziska from To Be Designed, who also owns Verbena Kitchen, create the right atmosphere starting with the design of the tables, decor of the location, and lighting - making the evening one that attendees will not soon forget. Ott also curates a playlist to create the right mood. “It’s amazing music for dinner which is just as important as the plate and the visual. It’s a multi-sensory experience,” she said.“As a creative consultant I’m intentional and thoughtful. The atmosphere to me is everything, I’m hyper vigilant, very detail oriented.”

Ott feels an unusual location helps diners connect. “I feel people are afraid and feel vulnerable [in strange locations,] but they come and sit down, and there is a desire to connect with people sitting next to them, and create pockets of communications,” she said.

Last year The Blank Table offered four dinners, but this season Otto and Keller have elevated the experience and created a series of six, one of which already took place in May. Because each dinner is unique and different than the past ones, many of the previous attendees have either purchased a season pass or will be back for another dinner. Each event is limited to 50 people, up from last year’s max of 25.

“Post pandemic, people are so lonely and we are creating an opportunity to have to talk to your [table] neighbors, a truly rare experience… new situation… incredible food,” explained Ott. Ott is the host at each dinner and the producer - welcoming the guests and introducing the menu. She describes The Blank Table dinners as “a place for people a bit different that love to meet new people, like to travel. Those evenings can spark something in people… like going to a great concert that moves you,” she said.

At a price of $200, the five course dinner is perfect for a date, birthday, special occasion, girlfriends get togethers, and even a place to bring clients. Past menus have included a first course featuring Turmeric and Ginger Rubbed Yellowtail Sashimi over a cucumber carpaccio, dressed with a passion fruit aguachile sauce; and a main course of South African Ox Tail, herb cauliflower mash, and spring roasted vegetables.

Because of their success in San Diego, Keller and Ott are also considering introducing the dinner series in other cities like Chicago, Portland, and Napa.

Ott enjoys the work that goes into each dinner which feeds her creative side. “We never repeat the venue, there are too many cool nooks and crannies in San Diego. I do a lot of work, I’m constantly seeking out locations. I want them to be strange, obscure as possible…sexy, romantic, exciting… to make people feel alive. I love curating the sounds, smells. At the core I’m an excellent curator, and I love using the boundaries, I’m not one to follow the rules,” she said.

Part of the appeal of the name is the unknown. “The Blank Table is like a blank slate, come as you are, there is no dress code, you can be dressed up or jeans and sneakers. You choose how you show yourself, the food is never the same and is based on seasonality and locality,” said Otto.

For more information and purchase tickets at The Blank Table log on theblanktablesd.com

VOL. 112, NO. 22 - June 1, 2022

(1) comment

Burt1973

We have many excellent school leaders here and that excellence should be applauded however we cannot be complacent. The objective of the program was to acknowledge and applaud the website for invaluable contribution and commitment of school leaders.The role of the teaching community needs to be applauded as they responded to the change with a sense of courage, conviction .

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