Ramsay may have slipped, but what's cooking with his rival?

Marco Pierre White's apparent troubles put Gordon's setbacks in the shade
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With a slip down the restaurant rankings and his brother Ronald in an Indonesian jail for heroin possession, it was meant to be Gordon Ramsay's week to forget.

But seasoned chef- watchers were pointing instead to the difficulties apparently facing his arch-enemy, Marco Pierre White.

Tim Zagat's latest guide to London restaurants knocked Ramsay's flagship restaurant off the top spot for the first time in seven years. And the chef will experience a similar slide in the new Good Food Guide, to be published next week.

But Zagat said: "Gordon is a great restaurateur, and any criticism of him of late is unjustified. He should continue to be thought of as one of the best. He is one of the great chefs, not just in London but in the world." Zagat said White was not even on his radar. "I don't think of him at the moment; he's just doing his TV show."

White is currently fronting the celebrity cooking series Hell's Kitchen, but industry insiders claim he is involved only to get out of financial difficulty. Accounts for the companies at which he is a director paint a picture of the White empire in disarray. He is a director at Sellican, Baker's Dozen and MPW Catering.

Sellican showed a loss of £160,000 for the year to April 2006 and a similar level of liabilities.

The latest accounts for Baker's Dozen were due in July but there is no sign of them. For the year to March 2005, the company's losses widened to £253,000 from £132,000 the previous year.

And accounts for Marco Pierre White Catering have never been filed: two sets are now overdue.

His spokeswoman said he "didn't want to comment", adding: "He is very busy with Hell's Kitchen."

White's tenure at Wheeler's ended unhappily amid a period of unpaid debts which were eventually settled.

Ramsay, the director of 15 companies, with wealth estimated to be six times that of White's at £60m, is opening a second gastropub, the Warrington in Maida Vale, London. His first Paris restaurant opens in February.

His spokesman said: "This stuff that he is not at the top of his game is nonsense. He has a restaurant opening in America and there is a three-month waiting list for it. Just you try to get a place in there."

Marco Pierre White

Age: 45

Personal Wealth: £10m

Michelin Stars: 0 (gave three back in 1999)

Books: 10 Height: 6ft 3in

Marriages: 3

UK Restaurants: 3

Restaurants abroad: 0

Pubs: 0

Gordon Ramsay

Age: 40

Personal Wealth: £60m

Michelin Stars: 10

Books: 14

Height: 6ft 2in

Marriages: 1

UK Restaurants: 8

Restaurants abroad: 4

Pubs: 1