The Public Table

The Public Table: The Collective for the Find of the Commons
January 21 – May 26, 2006
ArtSPACE, New Haven CT; Rockingham Arts & Museum Project, Bellows Falls VT; Cambridge Arts Council, Cambridge MA


This project consisted of three restaurants in which every component of the restaurant had to be free. Free space, free materials, free foods and astonishing free meals. The larger conceptual idea was quite simple: how could one develop a commercial space in a highly trafficked location that could take advantage and experiment with of all the excesses in the urban environment? Excesses in property – vacant storefronts; excesses in materials — free supplies — plywood, metal, scaffolding old desks etc.; excesses in labor — work; excesses in ideas — etc. We imagined a restaurant drifting and surfing the urban landscape — gleaning space, materials, energies, ideas, times, and new forms of eating and cooking. And that these excesses of our contemporary world could lead towards the creation of an excess of new manners of being in the world.


The project consisted of three restaurants in three different towns: New Haven, Bellows Falls, and Cambridge and a gallery installation titled “Of(f) the Table — Everything Must Go”. The three restaurants were open three days of the week and the other days were devoted to gleaning, and experimenting with our algorithmic techniques to come up with new dishes/techniques etc. We served an astonishing multi-course sit down meal of experimental cuisine for free three nights a week. Dining was collective, and began at a set time but people could come and go as they wished during the evening.

At the end of the project we gave away all of the materials we had made or collected — tables, dishes, food, cooking systems, archival materials — in an installation “Everything Must Go”. The installation began with the walls covered with objects and ended with an empty space.


The public programming components of this project included all aspects of this project. We invited people to work with us on the building, gleaning and cooking. We organized gleaning walks, workshops with various gleaners (mycologists, dumpster divers, urbanists), dinners, movie screenings, guest chefs, radio programming, workshops on algorithmic cooking techniques, and catered other events


  • Groups: Food Not Bombs
    Restaurants: Our Place Drop in Center, Word of Mouth Gourmet, Oonas Restaurant, Basin Farm Market
    Individuals: Roy Egg, Verandah Porche, Luise Light, and others
    Bitter Melon Society
  • "Eight people show up to sample the meal, including Keith Gipson, who has dined at The Public Table once already. "It's interesting and bold" Gipson says. "Everything is amazing with complex tastes. And it provides an outlet for people to get out of their routine lives." One dish on this night is figs stuffed with chicken, then rolled pumpkin gruel and braised. Another item is the 23-ingredient dish, served on a sliver of seaweed. "Its fun to mix tastes you don't think go together" says another diner... who says a friend recommended The Public Table. "My friend told me it was strange and worth coming to do." (Cafe Spurse in New Haven Register by Jim Shelton)