Now the Games in Atlanta are over, the serious competition begins. A six-man Hong Kong national team of chefs is preparing to go for gold at the Berlin Culinary Olympics. The gastronomic competition is the pinnacle of competition in haute cuisine. Organised by the World Association of Cooks Societies, teams from 30 heavyweight kitchens of the world will tussle for supremacy. Giants like Switzerland and France will clash skillets with Singapore and Australia. Just as unknowns can dash from behind to win marathons, so can there be unexpected upsets in the kitchen contests; at the last world Culinary Olympics, a talented young team from Canada scored top points. The Hong Kong team, which has been practising for months, goes to Berlin with quiet confidence. At the last gastronomic challenge, held in Basle, Switzerland, Hong Kong's cooking contingent stunned judges and won the gold medal for cold presentation. Amid a forest of eggplants sprouting from purple trees which will be used for table decoration as background for the dishes, team manager Bruno von Siebenthal explained the philosophy behind an event which started in 1895. The World Association of Cooks Societies is the biggest organisation of its kind, with 90 member associations. It began the competition not so much to identify the top culinary champions of the globe, but as a venue for all chefs from all countries to test their talents. In competition against professional cooks from different backgrounds, young chefs can hone their techniques and expertise. The six Hong Kong kitchen masters sharpening their carving knives before heading for Berlin include some of the most respected men in the profession. Team chief is Perry Yuen of the Island Shangri-La. The other five are Andy Chow (Hyatt Regency), Ivan Man (The Regent), Eric Shum and Mattias Schubel (Furama), and Kelvin Kiang (Jockey Club). They have been preparing dishes which will be served at the Restaurant of the Nations, where highly-critical palates will taste such delights as scallops and prawns skewered and served in won-ton with turmeric and lemon-grass sauce. Main courses will feature dishes like crisp roast suckling pig with leeks and Chinese mushrooms and deep-fried taro. Like the better-known but no less demanding athletic Olympics, the culinary version is divided into different events. Hong Kong's chefs will prepare practical dishes for 110 diners at the Restaurant of Nations and vie for medals in culinary artistry, buffet platters, restaurant plates and menus and pastry-cooking. Contestants must prepare a traditional menu of three typical dishes. This may be easier for chefs from Japan, for instance, than the Hong Kong team - what is 'typical' in our gastronomic tradition where East happily meets West in the wok? Judging criteria are incredibly strict. With Teutonic precision there are stringent rules governing what foods may be taken to Berlin. Outside the competition kitchens, vegetables may be washed, but not peeled. Onions may be peeled, but not cut up. Judging is as strict as drugs-testing at Atlanta. Is the kitchen spotless? It had better be, or points are deducted. What food looks like is vital. But even more important - worth three times the points - is how it tastes. Von Siebenthal insists the Hong Kong team has as good a chance to do as well in Berlin as windsurfer Lee Lai-shan did in the Atlantic Ocean.