Couple Behind Los Angeles Restaurant Horses Commerce Fees of Violence


The cooks Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian, companions in enterprise and marriage, have attracted nationwide consideration and a celeb following for his or her casual, subtle delicacies on the Catbird Seat in Nashville, Mimi in New York Metropolis and Horses in Los Angeles.

However that discover has spilled over into notoriety this week as sensational and intensely private allegations lifted from public paperwork started to make the rounds on the web. Ms. Johnson has accused Mr. Aghajanian of assaulting her, visiting prostitutes and torturing various pet kittens to dying. He has accused her of threatening to kill him and intentionally burning him with kitchen implements.

In November, in Los Angeles County Superior Court docket, Ms. Johnson requested and was granted a brief restraining order in opposition to her husband, ordering him to remain 10 ft away from her at work and 100 yards away from her and their three canine in any respect different instances.

In January, Mr. Aghajanian responded with an identical request as a part of a divorce submitting, saying that Ms. Johnson had verbally and bodily abused him for years, each at house and of their eating places. In that submitting, he said that the couple not lived collectively and requested for sole custody of the canine. A decide denied his request for a restraining order “for lack of enough displaying of excellent trigger.”

Within the paperwork, Ms. Johnson mentioned the employees of the restaurant walked out in November, in protest of her husband’s presence within the kitchen; he mentioned she had incited the walkout as a part of a calculated plan to take away him from the enterprise.

Since opening in October 2021, Horses has pulled neck-and-neck with Los Angeles movie star haunts just like the Polo Lounge and Jon & Vinny’s, with its classic vibe and a cool-kids clientele that has included Will Ferrell, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson. It has appeared on a number of Finest New Restaurant lists and acquired rave evaluations; final yr, The Occasions known as it “that uncommon animal in Los Angeles: a sizzling reservation with critical cooking behind the scenes.” (It later got here to gentle that the disgraced restaurateur Ken Friedman was concerned within the restaurant.)

After The Los Angeles Occasions broke the information of the courtroom dispute on Wednesday, a press release was posted on the restaurant’s Instagram account, stating that Mr. Aghajanian had left the restaurant final November, and that Ms. Johnson was guiding the restaurant “to repeatedly make Horses what she had at all times meant it to be — A spot of pleasure and celebration.”

Mr. Aghajanian denied the allegations and in a written assertion mentioned, “I’ve not and have by no means abused animals, nor my spouse.” Ms. Johnson mentioned she stood by her accusations.

The couple met in 2011 as interns at Noma, the influential Copenhagen restaurant that plans to shut in 2024. Since 2015, they’ve led — and instantly left — a number of kitchens, together with these at Mimi, the Catbird Seat, and Freedman’s, a contemporary Jewish deli in Los Angeles, the place Ms. Johnson was named one in every of Meals & Wine journal’s Finest New Cooks in 2018. (The homeowners of Mimi and the Catbird Seat didn’t instantly reply to telephone messages looking for remark.)

Final fall, Ms. Johnson introduced that she would open a brand new restaurant in Manhattan, within the West Village house that housed Chumley’s, one of many few Prohibition-era speakeasies to outlive into the twenty first century till it closed in 2020. The way forward for that mission is unclear, however Thomas Carter, who was a marketing consultant on the opening, mentioned Thursday that he was not concerned. (Mr. Carter confronted quite a few allegations of abusive office habits in 2018, as a companion in Estela and different Manhattan eating places with the chef Ignacio Mattos.)

Mr. Friedman didn’t reply to a request to substantiate his involvement in Horses. He co-owned eating places in New York Metropolis and Los Angeles till the New York State lawyer common, Letitia James, discovered that he had subjected 11 staff on the Noticed Pig in Greenwich Village to sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination. The restaurant closed in January 2020.


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