Chef Of LA's Popular Horses Restaurant Accused Of Spousal And Animal Abuse

The following article includes allegations of abuse visited upon people and animals. If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233). Similarly, if you suspect any occurrence of animal cruelty, you can report it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by calling (800) 540-SPCA (7722).

Major accusations have surfaced in the divorce of Will Aghajanian, chef at the popular Los Angeles restaurant Horses. According to reporting from the LA Times, Elizabeth Johnson, his wife, co-chef, and business partner, has claimed he killed the family's two cats and engaged in psychological and physical abuse. Aghajanian denies the allegations leveled against him.

Johnson's claims of animal abuse date back to 2017, when she took one of the couple's cats to a shelter for an apparent injury, and they informed her that the animal had been abused. Aghajanian's mother, though not assigning blame, testified that the couple had several kittens die when they resided in New York City, an occurrence she says the two of them chalked up to the rat poison that was used in the building. 

Regarding her own abuse, Johnson said that Aghajanian once grabbed her by her legs, pulling her across a room as she fought to resist him. The court overseeing the divorce proceedings has twice issued restraining orders against Aghajanian, forcing him to remain away from Johnson and their three dogs. The initial restraining order did allow for the two to be present at Horse concurrently, but Aghajanian was to keep 10 feet away from Johnson.

Both claim abuse

Aghajanian has countered that he is actually the victim of abuse in the marriage and that Johnson is manipulating the court in an effort to take away his business and his access to two of their dogs. He accuses her of having burned him with metal kitchen implements that he says she placed into a hot deep fryer.

A friend of Aghajanian's, Samuel Burchett, who claims to have lived with a couple in Nashville during a stint they did at The Catbird Seat, has entered a declaration on behalf of the chef. He says that during his time with them, he witnessed Johnson kick, hit, and stomp on Aghajanian's feet. Burchett also says that during this stay, he was frequently awoken by Johnson's "belligerent screaming." 

Horses, which opened in 2021, has been lauded as one of Los Angeles' best new restaurants with a menu that is chef-driven and heavy on classic comforts. Aghajanian is currently on a leave of absence from the restaurant, which is under the helm of Johnson. On their Instagram page, Horses issued a short statement reading in part, "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. The restaurant has no further comments outside of this statement."