Tell Erhardt, better known as Chef Tell of television fame, is about to get involved with treating victims of two maladies of the TV generation, anorexia and bulimia.
Most clinics for bulimics and anorexics teach their patients only how to eat hospital food, says Leonard Levitz, a clinical psychologist who is opening the Renfrew Center in Philadelphia and has hired Erhardt to run the kitchen. Not only is the Renfrew Center the country's first residential, non-hospital treatment center for bulimia and anorexia, says Levitz, it is unique in its approach to food service.
The 40-bed facility, on a 27-acre estate, is expected to open May 29 and, according to Levitz, who is the clinical director of the facility, it will include "an exquisite dining room" with a two-story ceiling and windows overlooking a creek and ponds. The point is to make the dining room a gathering place, and to make food attractive to the patients. Patients will take cooking classes and help prepare some meals, even grow some of the food in the center's gardens.
"So many patients see food as an enemy," says Levitz.
Although he will not be the on-site chef, Erhardt is planning the menus, hiring the chef and will sometimes teach cooking. He expects to be at the center an hour a day in between travels. He intends to serve food equivalent to that in restaurants, "food which smells good, looks good and tastes good" to the anorexics, who shun food in an attempt to lose more weight than is healthy, and bulimics, who binge on food, vomit and binge again.
Erhardt's goal for the patients is to "get them back interested and tell them that food is not really that bad."