[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
A popular Los Angeles restaurant has come under fire after a chef accused her husband and business partner of domestic violence — and killing the family’s cats!
According to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Horses co-owner and co-chef Elizabeth Johnson filed for divorce and requested a domestic violence restraining order against her husband Will Aghajanian in November. She alleged he assaulted her several times and killed their cats, something he called “false allegations.”
In her filing, she declared:
“Will and I have had cats that mysteriously ended up dying, including one in 2017 who I took to a shelter when she became seriously wounded overnight. The shelter told me she had been seriously abused, but Will denied it. I believed him. Then, last month, we were given another kitten.”
She claimed Will said he didn’t like the second cat — and joked about feeding the feline to coyotes. She then says she actually witnessed him hurting the creature — leading to its death the next day! She continued:
“I caught Will violently shaking the cat late at night, and he died the next day. Will put the dead cat in the trash and insisted on keeping the corpse in the house.”
Jeez… We may actually be sick…
In the photo (below), Liz can be seen on the far right — Will is in the middle, third from the left.
But there’s more! In a declaration, Will’s mother, Amanda Weathersby, revealed the couple had a “series of kittens” while living in NYC that all died. She explained:
“Liz talked about them and how one after the other died. She and Will believed that it was due to rat poison used in the buildings there.”
Back in the filing, Elizabeth claimed Will’s mental and psychological abuse kept her from realizing what he was doing to the animals sooner. She also claimed she was the victim of physical abuse. In 2019, she alleged, her husband dragged her by the legs across the floor while she screamed and tried to resist.
A friend of Aghajanian says there is another side to the story. In Samuel Burchett‘s declaration in the case, he talked about being best friends with Will and living with the couple for a brief time while working with them in Tennessee at Catbird Seat. Samuel claims he would wake up to Johnson “belligerently screaming” and at work, he alleges, he saw her kick and hit Will, as well as stomping on his feet. He argued:
“I never saw Will react to her abuse and he just always brushed it off.”
Will is defending himself, too. The restaurateur declared in a message to a journalist:
“I love cats, mice. And every other animal under gods/allah whatever each religion calls him/her and have loved all animals since I was a child. I have problems killing lobster, and usually try to do it in the most humane way possible.”
A judge approved Elizabeth’s domestic violence restraining order against Will in December and reissued it on May 1, per court documents. They are allowed to work at Horses but must stay 10 feet away from each other. However, they haven’t had to get out the measuring tape. Johnson revealed in a declaration that when Will returned to work in November, the entire staff staged a walkout! It seems they all believe her!
In a statement posted on Instagram after the LA Times published the article, the dining establishment noted:
“Will Aghajanian has been on a leave of absence from Horses as of November 2022, and since then he has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Under the guidance of Chef Liz, our incredible front and back of house teams are working to continuously make Horses what she had always intended it to be – a place of joy and celebration. Horses has no further comments outside of this statement.”
In one filing, Liz also requested Will remain 100 yards from their dogs, Pancho, Javi, and Spud, but he’s fighting back against all the abuse and animal violence accusations.
In his own filing, Will claims he was the victim in the relationship and alleges Elizabeth had repeatedly threatened to kill him. She also burned him at least twice with a metal spatula and spoon she placed in a fryer, he says. He declared:
“She falsely accuses me of things that she has done or that she threatened to do to me and my pet. My pets are like children to me and I love them dearly. I am fearful of [Johnson] since I am the victim of [her] long-term abuse that has occurred throughout our relationship.”
Holy s**t! Now she’s being accused, too?? Is this an abuser tactic, turning it around on her?
If you haven’t heard of Horses, it opened in Hollywood in early 2021 and has been a hit ever since. With celeb clients and modern-American classic dishes, it remained on Eater LA‘s “heatmap” of the “hottest new restaurants” in the city for months. It features a unique co-kitchen system in which each night at least four chefs get equal say in the menu. Unfortunately, the hot spot hasn’t been without its controversy though. In August, the establishment was accused of having a connection to Ken Friedman.
The restaurateur was accused by employees at Spotted Pig of sexual harassment and retaliation in 2017. According to a report, Horses enlisted Ken’s help in acquiring a lease to open their restaurant (and he was rumored to be a secret partner). The business’ ownership denied his involvement whatsoever, and The Times reviewed documents and saw he wasn’t listed as an owner or operator. Elizabeth also insisted he was not “a partner, a silent partner, an investor, a consultant, nor someone I would consider a friend.”
Last year, the former couple announced the opening of a new restaurant in New York City’s West Village, Froggy’s. The opening has been put on pause amid the divorce, per Will’s legal representation. Sounds like this is going to be a NASTY split. Thoughts?!
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. Consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or text START to 88788, or go to https://www.thehotline.org/.