Ohtaniemen Pidot catering
The list of employers for the matron of the catering firm Ohtaniemen Pitotila, chef Riitta Laitinen, is impressive. “I have been employed by three presidential couples, the Koivistos, the Ahtisaaris and the Halonens,” Riitta Laitinen smiles. “It all started with my having a summer job with the Koivistos in Naantali. It became quite a long assignment,” Riitta laughs.
The Ohtaniemen Pitotila farm is located in Simpele, on the shore of Loituma by the Rautjärvi and Ruokolahti border. After a winding road a stunning countryside view opens up, crowned by a beautifully restored, grand, yellow farmhouse with smoke rising from three chimneys in the winter. “This is a family estate, in the 7th generation already,” Riitta explains. “My own life and career were in the metropolitan area, but as my father passed away suddenly, my plans changed. I started an alternation leave to ponder the solution, and as a result, my husband and I moved permanently to Ohtaniemi in 2010,” Riitta Laitinen reminisces. “The house is fully renovated and equipped with modern technology. There’s enough space for 50 people to dine at a time indoors, and in the summer, we can make good use of the outdoors as well. We have also renovated the lakeside sauna, courtyard and the so called old cottage for which we’ve found plenty of use, for example as a dance room in a summer wedding.”
The Ohtaniemen Pidot catering started out little by little, and the first big public event was this spring on Mother’s Day, when 80 diners visited Ohtaniemi. “We put out an announcement for a Mother’s Day’s lunch in a local paper, but other than that, we haven’t really been marketing that much,” Riitta Laitinen says. “We’ve discovered that Facebook and the grapevine are excellent marketing channels,” she adds. “We have had a couple of weddings at Ohtaniemi, and we have reservations for two weddings for the summer as well. In addition, we’ve entertained smaller groups and visitors. Ohtaniemi is not only a workplace but also a home, and all visitors are our guests.”
Riitta Laitinen has always been interested in cooking, and that’s what swept her along out to the world. “I started out as a 17-year-old potato peeler at the restaurant Kalastajatorppa, and after that I’ve cooked anything from pig’s head brawn to diplomatic dining,” Riitta laughs. Riitta has pursued a magnificent career not only in service of presidential couples but also in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “At President Martti Ahtisaari’s suggestion I sought my way to Tallinn in 1994 and Hungary in 2002 and worked at the EU delegation in Brussels between 2005 and 2008,” Riitta says. “If I didn’t live at Ohtaniemi, I’d probably live in Budapest, because Hungary had an unforgettable impression on me.”
The Ohtaniemi farm has plenty of plans for the future. “We have plans for many kinds of events for this summer (2016), for example a village dance,” Riitta says. “We also have a catering service on demand, but we like to organize different kinds of feasts here at Ohtaniemi. We’re also planning to possibly build holiday cottages on the shore of Lotuma. I’m big on planning, and usually my plans also come true,” Riitta Laitinen laughs.