A Table Set to Connect
This story starts in the seventh grade. We know, most people want to forget their middle school days, but bear with us. The ending is well worth it. The Blank Table San Diego
Alexandria Ott and Frederick Keller met at Coronado Middle School, where they sparked a friendship that would last more than 20 years. Fast forward and you’ll find Ott in Chicago running Chrome City—her own creative agency—and Keller working as a chef in restaurants around the world and on multi-million dollar yachts. Turns out, these two know how to hustle.
“People are craving real connections more than ever, so we set out to provide a setting where people from all different walks of life can sit down, converse and share ideas face to face.”—Alexandria Ott
Despite their success stories, a few years ago, Ott decided to leave her fast-paced life in Chicago behind, moving back to her old San Diego stomping grounds. When she got there, however, she felt a sense of disconnection. “I had been gone for seven years, and when I got back, I didn’t know how to connect with the city,” says Ott. But if there was anyone who could make things happen, it was her and Keller. So with a will to shake things up and give people the opportunity to connect, the duo decided to tap into an untouched territory in San Diego: experimental pop-up dinners.
Enter The Blank Table—a bi-monthly dining platform designed to transform the San Diego cultural experience. “People are craving real connections more than ever, so we set out to provide a setting where people from all different walks of life can sit down, converse and share ideas face to face,” says Ott. But The Blank Table is far from any Monday-morning meeting. With the accomplished Chef Keller behind the menu, expert mixologist Sean O’Connell behind the bar and designer Katie Jayne Sprenkle setting a table that’ll take your breath away, each event elicits a magical mood. “It’s a full sensory experience,” she says. “It’s not just about the food; there is always music and a theme.” While Ott plays hostess, Chef Keller and mixologist O’Connell work behind the scenes, crafting cocktails, pairing flavors and perfecting the presentation.
“I love the element of surprise,” says Ott. So to keep things interesting, the team decided to not release the location of each event until the morning of. Oh yeah, and nobody knows who’s coming. That’s right—strangers dining with strangers at a secret location. Sounds odd right? Well, that’s the point. The Blank Table offers guests a chance to step out of their comfort zone and sit next to someone that is making San Diego tick.
“Fred’s food is dynamite, and the amount of work that Sean does to match the food with the flavors of the cocktails is magic. They go all out.”—Alexandria Ott Blank Table San Diego
The first dinner took place in Pacific Beach at a secluded garden space called Yard & Sea, and it was an immediate sellout. “We had guests enter through an alley. People were like, ‘Where am I?’ Then they walked into this beautiful, decked-out space,” explains Ott. The menu featured an amuse followed by three carefully curated courses and dessert. Guests started with champagne and oysters topped with grilled pineapple chutney and moved onto decadent dishes featuring tuna carpaccio, seared scallops and yellowtail, finishing the evening with a serving of sweet buttermilk panna cotta.
Since the first event in June 2019, The Blank Table has hosted at a variety of different venues across San Diego, including a former skatepark-turned-art studio, a private dock on Harbor Island and a family-owned nursery in Mission Hills. When the pandemic hit, however, the crafty team of four shifted their MO to fit the current climate, using their talents to curate private dinners for those who crave connection during a disconnected time. In other words, instead of hosting, The Blank Table comes to you!
“It’s about [the person hosting] now,” says Ott. I talk to the client, try to understand their vibe and do a lot of research on who the dinner is for.” For example, for our last client, I found out she had traveled the world, so we did different cocktails and flavors from the countries she had visited. I am really into researching the person and making it feel like everything is unique to them.” Clients can choose between four pricing options with the choice to add beverage pairings and floral and decor design. “It’s a great way to spoil people,” says Ott. “Fred’s food is dynamite, and the amount of work that Sean does to match the food with the flavors of the cocktails is magic. They go all out.”
With hopes to resume their pop-up events this year, Ott and her team continue to provide ways for people to connect. Whether it’s preparing an intimate celebration for a couple who had to cancel their wedding or orchestrating an incredible birthday dinner, The Blank Table remains a beacon of hope in a disconnected, ever-changing society.
Photography Provided By: Emily Carmichall + Chrome City