Who was going to tell the young Raquel Meroño, when she was one of the protagonists of the series When she left class and didn’t even know how to fry an egg, that over time it would become a whole kitchen, that she would set up a beach bar? from Tarifa and who would end up winning MasterChef Celebrity. A lot has happened since her first steps as an actress, but, above all, she has changed her way of experiencing food, which is now 100% enjoyable and healthy. What has not changed is her contagious energy and a good example of this was her time in Arla’s Opening the Refrigerator series.

In 2020, in the midst of confinement, the businesswoman looked at the stove in her home with suspicion. Not even when her daughters were little had she gotten the hang of stews and stir-fries. She also didn’t take to kneading, baking or gratin during confinement. And then, she rang. She was offered to participate in MasterChef Celebrity. To her, who knew just enough about cooking. “I didn’t consider going to learn something new. I just thought that I was finally going to be able to leave the house, keep my mind busy, because I was starting to go up the walls,” she confesses during filming to the presenter, Lidia Torrent.

Four years after that call and after being crowned the winner of the famous reality television show, Meroño feels like a fish in water, inventing recipes and sharing videos of pans on social networks. “At first my daughters recorded me. But they even had to teach me how to edit the videos and add music! ”She recalls with amusement. What started as a game became a personal challenge. “Now, when friends come to our house, we repeat the recipes they like the most,” explains the actress, who has become a culinary and lifestyle influencer and has almost half a million followers on Instagram (@raquel_merono).

There are two secrets to its success. The first is an infectious optimism, that natural smile that makes peeling, chopping or cutting seem easier. The second thing is his passion for simple dishes, with ingredients that are easy to find and even easier to handle in the kitchen. Of course, healthy and quality. “When you have teenagers at home, there is an unbeatable combination: fried tomato, cheese, some sautéed vegetables and pasta. You add a little bit of oregano and you have a very tasty recipe. I could do without many ingredients in my life, but without cheese, impossible,” he points out without complexes.

That Raquel who called her mother to help her organize her twins’ meals, now does not hesitate to sign up for batch cooking. “One day you make some lentils or some meatballs, and you already have food prepared for the rest of the week. I freeze what’s left over in individual tupperware. You come home late one day, or you don’t feel like cooking, you defrost something delicious and you think ‘if I had thrown this away, I wouldn’t have had dinner today,’ she details while acknowledging that cooking has taught her patience. “In the end, that calmness, that mindful eating, you extrapolate to all facets of your life. The more you cook, the more you take care of yourself. The better you choose your food and the tastier it is, you notice that you have better digestion, that your skin improves… Eating well should be taught in schools as a subject,” she claims, laughing.

After the talk, Torrent and Meroño get to work preparing an eggplant parmigiana, or in other words, some eggplant parmigiana. One of the most international Italian recipes, which is prepared with very few ingredients and in just a few minutes. Like a professional chef, the guest cuts an onion, garlic, eggplant, adds tomato and prepares a sauce over medium heat. All that remains is to gratin, for which she chooses a grated Mozarella and another of Cheddar and Mozarella, both from Arla, the Danish brand known for making its cheeses with fresh milk of the highest quality and without additives.

An Italian mamma would have finished the dish with a little basil, but Meroño prefers to add his personal touch with chives to give a touch of freshness. A touch of green that enhances the appearance of the dish and makes it even more irresistible, in case that aroma fresh from the oven was not enough. “Now we just have to eat it. But without distractions, no looking at the phone while we sink our teeth into it. Chat like good friends and enjoy the dish,” Meroño concludes as she rolls the gratin cheese on the fork. A “mamma mia” of culinary delight is heard and both give a good taste of the parmigiana.