He runs the Roig Robí with his children, a restaurant that has been visited by personalities from all over the world

2013 La Vanguardia
"I appreciate what I can still do"
Only a few days have passed since Mercè Navarro celebrated his birthday and in the dining room of the Roig Robí, the Barcelona restaurant he has run for more than a quarter of a century, the large bouquet of flowers sent to him by one of her daughters from the United States, where she has been living with her family for years. The morning, rainy and unpleasant, invites lamandra. But Navarro, whose house is right above the restaurant, came down full of energy, as he does every day. This time she does not go into the kitchen to take a look at the pans or to discuss the changes to the menu, as she usually does with her children, Imma and Joan, who have worked with her since she opened the business.

Today she does it to be photographed, coquettishly, next to the boxes of freshly arrived mushrooms that will season the dishes. Autumn is not a time of nostalgia for cooks, but of excitement in the face of the exuberance of products on the market. There are still hours to go before the first customers arrive when the hostess sits down in a cozy corner of the room to confess, with a serene smile, a look in her very clear eyes, and the grave and slow voice, which she likes to do for years. Not only because the only alternative is not to fulfill them, but because he feels happy to have been born in the place and time in which he was born. "Happy to have met the people I've met and to have had the children I've had. We can't choose the moment we come into the world and I know I've been very lucky." She is convinced that age has brought her peace and balance. "I'm glad to have arrived here as I am. And I think that feeling happy makes me feel better. I would never have imagined that I would have such a balanced old age as the one I am living".

"I, who had a youth in black and white, remember that Barcelona became in color"
This peace with herself, she says, is brought to her by family and friends. He describes them as "extraordinary people who have accompanied me on the road for more than forty years, from the time when we took the children to a school, La Costa i Llobera, in which we all shared similar ideals and went evolving together And together we went from the afternoons of catechesis in the chavals to the demonstrations". He assures that this magnificent relationship he maintains both with his friends and with his children is the result of many years. "It is something that must always be taken care of. And I think that what I share at this moment is the compensation for the effort of a lifetime". He doesn't have the physical stamina of years ago. "With age you learn to know your limitations and that makes you feel good if you are able to value everything that you can do". The restaurant gives her life. And although he has left behind the endless days and the hard work, he is still active and is the one who thinks of the new dishes that will be offered to the customers, always after talking and agreeing opinions with his children, and who reviews the work of the cooks "because the routine of an elaboration does not fall into bad habits". She is also the one who suggests incorporating new techniques to improve the preparations. Try to keep up. And although he doesn't visit many establishments - "before because he didn't have time, now because of the tendency to gain kilos", - he admires Carme Ruscalleda, Ferran Adrià, Joan Roca. "When I started, the figure of the cook was already prominent, but they have given him an indisputable value that has made them important characters in our society today." She insists on remembering that she, who was self-taught - although Montse Seguí's courses were tremendously useful to her - was the driving force behind Roig Robí. But he would never have been what he became without his children Joan and Imma Crosas, who have been by his side from the very beginning. She is not a woman who lives to remember the past. But he does feel nostalgic for those years of Olympic Barcelona when personalities from all over the world paraded through his dining room and all the professionals who were relevant in the years of euphoria of the Games. Politicians of all stripes were also regular customers. He feels a certain nostalgia for the years when Barcelona woke up from boredom and came out of the darkness.

"There was a time when the city was in full swing and everything was celebrated. I, who think I had a black and white youth, in which there were many things we couldn't do, have the feeling that Barcelona suddenly became in color. We all had more access to culture and life, in short." Mercè Navarro was born in Olesa de Montserrat and at the age of fifteen he moved to Barcelona with his family. His parents, he explains, were excellent people: they both cooked very well – among the tastes of his memory, the cannelloni he embroidered or the beef she cooked – and they shared the household chores because while one worked in the morning , the other had an afternoon shift. "My father also bathed me or did my hair. I think that in those first two years of my life - until the Civil War broke out - there was so much balance that this has marked me. Mercè was the eldest of the four children – three girls and one boy – and, probably because of the age difference with the rest, the only one who did not study a career. "Over the years you learn that nothing affects you excessively; good things don't last forever, neither do bad things"

"It didn't occur to anyone that I could do it, and I dedicated myself to helping parents." He married young and had six children. "When they were little I always had so much work that I lacked hours". It was after his marital separation, when the boys were already starting to grow up, that he drew strength from the difficulty to start a new stage. "It seems to me that I have always been someone who in difficult times has been able to push forward. First, before I separated, I opened a daycare, which was a model, when Bernat - the youngest of his children - was born. And finally I opted for the kitchen. It was what worked best for me. And although I soon discovered that it had nothing to do with cooking
house with the traffic of a restaurant, there I found my place".

She believes that she has been an entrepreneur all her life and, over time, she has learned to fit things together without being overly affected.
"You learn that good things don't always last, and neither do bad things. And that you have to rebuild those things that are falling apart, little by little." If he looks back, he recognizes that what has satisfied him the most in life has been having his six children. If she looks to the future, she assures that she is worried about what she can offer these seven grandchildren who love her madly, "more because of what their parents have told them about me than because of what I, always so busy, have been able to do for they". He says things are not going well. "It terrifies me to see that everything that cost us so much to build - I always went to all the demonstrations - is being destroyed day by day".

2013 La Vanguardia

la Vanguardia

Text: Cristina Jolonch