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CELEBRITY chef Marco Pierre White and diminutive jockey Frankie Dettori have approached championship football club Leeds United with the idea of opening a restaurant at its Elland Road ground.

And another, rival celebrity chef, thought to be James Martin, is locked in negotiations with the club as it proceeds with plans to redevelop the ageing stadium.

White and Dettori have identified the first floor of the East Stand as the ideal place for a restaurant.

The theme would be Italian American.

But United, whilst confirming that there has been contact, say that formal talks have yet to take place.

A spokesman for Leeds United said: “They (Marco Pierre White and Frankie Dettori) have expressed an interest but no discussions have taken place at the moment.

“We are, however, in discussions with another major chef, who is a household name, about the East Stand development at Elland Road.”

At first glance, the partnership with Dettori seems an odd one but White, who is 50 in December, is half Italian through his mother, whilst Dettori hails from Milan.

And White has chosen his home-town club for a first attempt to get into the football food market.

It is understood that he toyed with the idea of linking up with a footballer for the project but the possibility of extending the idea to take in other clubs meant he opted instead to go into partnership with someone who crosses football’s tribal barriers.

United, meanwhile, are remaining tight-lipped about the identity of the other celebrity chef. All they will say is: “We think it’s important that we go into partnership with someone who isn’t part of a worldwide chain.”

That would seem to rule out Gordon Ramsey, who has interests in restaurants across several continents, and Jamie Oliver, who is to open an Italian in Dubai later this month and in Sydney, Australia, in July.

The interest from celebrity chefs coincides with United recently announcing plans to press on with the redevelopment of Elland Road, with plans for a hotel, new conference facilities, shops and an increase in capacity from 40,000 to almost 50,000.

Work will start before the end of the season on 22 new executive boxes, six new lounges and a wider concourse on the upper tier of the East Stand.

White, dubbed ‘The Godfather of Modern Cookery’ and the ‘Enfant Terrible’, held three Michelin stars at the age of 33.

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