The Horses saga appears to have escalated this week, with an extensive report by Grubstreet providing comprehensive details of the strife between co-chef-owners Will Aghajanian and Liz Johnson. After more than a week of social media speculation and numerous articles based on Johnson and Will’s various court filings, including a divorce filing and multiple restraining order requests, this week’s investigation provides employee accounts of the co-chefs’ tenures at New York City’s Mimi, Nashville’s Catbird Seat, and Hollywood’s Horses.
Among the new revelations are an alleged half-admission from Aghajanian that he was behind the deaths of some of the couples’ cats, alleged statements from Aghajanian expressing empathy with Hitler, multiple accounts that Aghajanian had allegedly made racially derisive comments about Koreans, and allegations that Aghajanian had slept overnight at Horses. The reporting — which covers the ongoing divorce as well as Aghajanian’s lawsuit claiming Johnson is using a smear campaign to wrestle away his stake in the business — suggests that the instances of alleged animal abuse are just part of the problem. Here are the key takeaways from reporter Ezra Marcus’s Grubstreet piece:
- Despite Aghajanian claiming that in fact Johnson was behind one of the kitten deaths, he also allegedly said, “And so what if I did?” when questioned by a member of the Horses kitchen staff. “He spilled the beans on himself,” alleges Horses co-chef Krizia Villaflor.
- While working at New York City’s Mimi, Aghajanian allegedly mixed worms into a grinder with monkfish and sheep’s liver and fed it to the staff for a family meal. The staff often found his food so inedible that management would buy pizza.
- In an incident at Catbird Seat, Aghajanian asked the kitchen crew to cut away the ears and hack away at rabbit skulls to safely remove their brains as a “group project.” Aghajanian later confirmed the incident, but claimed it was for “sustainability.”
- Multiple people claim to have heard Aghajanian making racial comments about Koreans, including one where he allegedly remarked, “Koreans are the dirtier versions of Japanese people.” Aghajanian also allegedly said, “I think Hitler had some pretty good ideas.” Aghajanian has denied all of these statements.
- David Maihle, a chef who worked at Catbird Seat, claims that Aghajanian would purposefully ignore customer allergy requests and once tried to serve a shipment of crabs that had been improperly refrigerated. After objecting to Aghajanian regarding the crabs, Maihle was sent home for the day. Aghajanian denied ever serving compromised crabs.
- The couple had acquired a kitten in Nashville that ended up dying weeks later. Villaflor alleges Aghajanian said, “Cats suck,” and expressed his distaste for them. After a three-week-old kitten was apparently injured when alone with one of the couple’s dogs, Aghajanian allegedly said, “It’s fine, cats just die.”
- Multiple members of the Catbird Seat staff claim to have observed combative language between Johnson and Aghajanian, including Johnson verbally assaulting Aghajanian. Others claim Agahajnian told Johnson that she “can’t cook” and that “everybody hates you.” A close friend of Aghajanian said he never observed any of the behavior or racially derisive comments.
- After reports that Aghajanian had been verbally abusive to Johnson and other members of the staff, the two chefs were locked out of the premises and summarily fired by Catbird Seat owners Benjamin and Max Goldberg.
- After Johnson’s request for a restraining order was approved, Aghajanian was allegedly found sleeping in the staff lockers overnight on more than one occasion and was also allegedly found hiding in a dumpster.
- Johnson, now “the solo face of Horses” due to an ongoing leave by Aghajanian, is said to have reached out to the restaurant’s PR person to try and improve her perception, asking to be placed on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, since Fallon had had a good experience there in the past. “I just need to get myself in front of the public and show that I’m a real, likable, normal person,” Johnson is reported to have said.
Eater reached out to Horses for comment and was referred to this Instagram statement made last week.
Disclosure: Grubstreet is a media property of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media.