Should you find yourself in Paris dining in an upscale café and confused by menu items such as Popcorn Foie Gras, don’t complain to the owner. You may suddenly wind up face-to-face with sinewy Seattleite Chris Cornell, who takes proprietary pride in Black Calavados, the restaurant he recently opened in his new hometown.
The ex-Soundgarden, ex-Audioslave banshee — who also has a new solo album and is coming to the Bay Area — doesn’t take any “Ratatouille” guff. With his brother-in-law, Cornell bought the vacant café and an adjoining basement bar, oversaw its redesign and created its bill of fare, from wagyu-beef miniburgers to the curious goose-liver delicacy.
Now known as BC to a hipster clientele, the location, he says, “had kind of a notorious past. It was a favorite hangout for a lot of famous people, pre- and post-war, like Josephine Baker. And later, it had more of an underworld vibe, definitely a you-had-to-be-a-member kind of scenario.”
BC had more secrets in store, such as a concealed, possibly centuries-old fresco painted on the ceiling, now fully restored.
“And that’s just par for the course when you’re living in any city that’s more than 150 years old,” says Cornell, who initially wondered if people would patronize his place. They did.
“BC isn’t like anything else; it doesn’t remind me of any other place,” he says. “And I started working in therestaurant business when I was really young — and when I say ‘restaurant business,’ I mean being a dishwasher.”
Back then, his co-workers all hated the job, but Cornell ate it up.
As he was putting his grunge combo Soundgarden together two decades ago, he was often broke, but, thanks to his work, never starving. A few years later, as he watched his brother’s friends open boutiquey eateries with amazing food, that’s when he started thinking about doing something similar.
While BC keeps him busy in Paris, Cornell recently has worked on other projects, too. He hobnobbed with the Queen at London’s royal premiere of “Casino Royale” (for which he co-penned and performed the theme tune, “You Know My Name”). These days, he’s touring the world behind “Carry On,” his new Steve Lillywhite-produced solo set; he comes to The Warfield in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Cornell has even wrapped his pipes around a cover of “Billie Jean.” But now that he’s finished with Audioslave — the superstar side group he formed with ex-Rage Against The Machine members — will he soon be singing Soundgarden dirges again?
“I’m not feeling it,” he says. “Someone inside the band has to rally to make a reunion happen, and I haven’t noticed any rallying in the Soundgarden camp. From any side. Ever.”
Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $37.50 to $42.50
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com