Calgary

Grieving family of chef killed by thieves trying to break into cannabis store says 'hearts are broken'

Christophe Herblin was a "kind, generous and gentle man" who worked extremely hard to realize his dream of opening his own cafe  — but that dream was cut short by "senseless tragedy," his family says.

Christophe Herblin was to open Croque Saveurs, a French market and deli, in April

Christophe Herblin, 56, was the executive chef at Calgary's Glencoe Club for the past 12 years. He worked around the world at high-end resorts, restaurants and hotels before moving to Canada. (Herblin family)

Christophe Herblin was a "kind, generous and gentle man" who worked extremely hard to realize his dream of opening his own cafe — but that dream was cut short by "senseless tragedy," his family says.

The Calgary chef was killed, allegedly by thieves trying to break into a cannabis store through his soon-to-be-opened deli.

On Tuesday, police said they released a man who had been arrested after being pulled over by RCMP in Saskatchewan while driving a vehicle linked to the investigation.

Herblin, 56, worked as executive chef at Calgary's Glencoe Club for the past 12 years and was set to open his own deli on Bow Trail S.W. at 37th Street next month.

In the early morning hours on Saturday, he was attacked in the strip mall parking lot after a break-in at his business, Croque Saveurs. Police believe the offenders were trying to break into the cannabis store next to Herblin's shop.

"He was a kind, generous and gentle man," wrote the Herblin family in a statement. "He loved his family, cooking, animals, motorcycles, good friends and wonderful food and wine."

"He worked extremely hard to realize his dream of opening his own cafe. That dream was cut short by this senseless tragedy."

'Very determined thieves'

Herblin responded to a break-and-enter alarm at his business around 3 a.m. on Saturday. Police arrived, secured the scene and searched the business before leaving.

While he waited for his business to be secured following the break-in, Herblin remained in the parking lot until about 6 a.m.

Police say that's when at least three offenders returned and attacked the victim. 

Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta says police haven't ruled out that the offenders may have been waiting in the area and watching for police to leave. 

The thieves were "very determined to access the cannabis store through the victim's business," said Schiavetta.

Herblin died seeking help

There have been at least two break-ins at the same Spiritleaf cannabis store and investigators are looking into potential connections.

Herblin managed to get to a nearby gas station, where someone called 911. But Herblin died at the scene before he could be taken to hospital.

Police initially asked the public for help finding a Dodge Calibre related to the incident. 

The hatchback was pulled over by Saskatchewan RCMP and a man was taken into custody and eventually released. Police say they're continuing to investigate whether he was involved in the homicide.

Investigators are asking anyone who was driving westbound on Bow Trail around 38 Ave. between 6 a.m. and 6: 30 a.m. on Saturday to review their dash cam video and provide any information to police.

Schiavetta says he's confident there are people in the community who have information and is asking them to come forward.

Christophe Herblin's French market and deli, Croque Saveurs, was set to open in April. (Instagram/Croque Saveurs)

Herblin had worked all over the world at high-end resorts, restaurants and hotels, including most recently at Calgary's Glencoe Club.

Natasha Sawatsky and Herblin worked together for 10 years at the Glencoe and both went back to school in 2019, taking the same self-employment program as they worked toward building their own businesses.  

"Christophe was an incredible man," said Sawatsky. "He worked so hard and always put others ahead of himself.

"He wasn't a typical chef; he invested so much into his teams and led with such compassion and grace. I was so excited to see his vision come to life. We were all so excited."

According to Croque Saveurs' website, Herblin grew up in southwest France and was "captivated by all things food and bread."

Herblin attended cooking school in France and went on to work at prestigious hotels and restaurants all over Europe before moving to Canada.

Herblin leaves behind a wife and daughter.

"He was much loved and will be missed always," wrote the Herblin family. 

"Our hearts are broken."

Corrections

  • Earlier versions of this story stated the Dodge Calibre that police were looking for belonged to the victim. The Calgary Police Service later issued a correction. The hatchback did not belong to the victim but was related to the incident.
    Mar 18, 2020 11:12 AM MT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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