New details have emerged in the bitter divorce battle between the chefs of a popular Los Angeles restaurant – as they continue to accuse each other of horrific acts including animal abuse.
Elizabeth Johnson, 32, and Will Aghajanian, 31, the chefs behind the celebrity hotspot Horses, caught national attention earlier this month after she claimed he tortured and killed their cat in a divorce filing.
In documents filed last November, Johnson stated she had been emotionally and physically abused by Aghajanian, and asked for a domestic violence restraining order, claiming she feared both of her safety and that of the couple’s dogs because she knew of ‘up to 14 animals’ he had abused.
Johnson claimed she did not realize Aghajanian was abusing and killing the animals because she had been psychologically abused by his explanations for the deaths.
Now, a fuller picture of their relationship has emerged, with New York magazine’s Grub Street reporting additional disturbing details of the pair’s history, which is filled with accusations of abuse and animal cruelty.
Elizabeth Johnson and Will Aghajanian, the chefs behind the celebrity hotspot Horses, are going through a bitter divorce
The couple’s restaurant Horses opened in September 2021, received rave reviews and was an instant celebrity favorite
Aghajanian has blamed Johnson for the pet deaths, and claims he is the one who was abused, claiming in a court filing that Johnson bragged about her father catching squirrels to drown them.
Along with the court filing, Aghajanian filed screenshots of texts with Johnson, including one where she threatened to kill their dog Pancho.
In a text from 2018, Johnson wrote: ‘If I get famous will anyone ever find out about pancskes [sic] or the cats.’
‘No. Love you,’ Aghajanian replied.
The shocking report includes testimonies from sources who claimed to have witnessed Aghajanian’s alleged taste for animal cruelty and history of racist comments.
People who worked with Aghajanian at Per Se restaurant in New York told Grub Street Aghajanian insisted on buying live turtles and butchering them himself.
Former colleagues at the Nashville restaurant Catbird claimed he once brought in a case of frozen rabbits and instructed his staff to hack into the animal’s skulls and taking their brains out as part of a ‘project.’
When one employee said he was done with the project, Aghajanian allegedly said he just wanted to know ‘how long everyone would do this for.’
At the same restaurant, he allegedly told staff that the only allergies that exist are shellfish and nuts and to ignore all others allergies. Aghajanian is also accused of saying ‘Hitler had some pretty good ideas’ during his time at Catbird.
The couple was fired from the restaurant after complaints that they would fight in the kitchen and that Aghajanian was abusive both to Johnson and to staff.
During their time at Mimi restaurant in New York, Aghajanian regularly verbally abused Johnson, with one former co-worker saying she witnessed him burning Johnson with a pair of hot tongs.
A shocking report includes testimonies from sources who claimed to have witnessed Aghajanian’s alleged taste for animal cruelty and history of racist comments
The couple have accused each other of killing and torturing animals
In his divorce filing, Aghajanian claimed it was Johnson who burned him intentionally after becoming enraged over overcooked chicken, leaving a scar. A source close to Johnson denied the claim.
Aside from the abuse allegations, former co-workers of the couple also said their cats always seemed to die mysteriously. While working at Mimi, three cats died with no explanation.
‘I remember telling them like, “This is getting weird. Maybe you shouldn’t keep trying to get cats,”‘ one former colleague told Grub Street.
The couple also had one cat die while they worked at Nashville’s Catbird. Former co-workers told the outlet they thought it was strange they had gotten a cat because Aghajanian was open about his disdain for the animals.
Aghajanian has denied any wrongdoing mentioned in the Grub Street expose.
Johnson and Aghajanian met as interns at the restaurant Noma in Copenhagen before getting engaged in 2013 and moving to New York.
Aghajanian remains on Horse’s payroll but has stepped away from daily operations, as Johnson has taken control.
Johnson has also requested that Aghajanian remain 100 yards away from their dogs, Pancho, Javi and Spud, according to the filing.
In her November divorce filings, Johnson said Aghajanian alleged that in 2019, Aghajanian dragged her by the legs across the floor while she screamed and attempted to resist.
The filing alleged that Aghajanian has been responsible for the deaths of both of their cats.
‘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 wrote detailing how it wasn’t long before that kitten was dead too, after he had said he didn’t like it.
Johnson and Aghajanian’s restaurant Horses opened in September 2021, received rave reviews and was an instant celebrity favorite.
It was on Eater LA’s ‘heatmap’ of ‘hottest new restaurants’ for months and the Los Angeles Times called it ‘a new modern L.A. institution’ and ‘the city’s most exhilarating new dining experience in the last year.’