Following a three-week hiatus, Top Chef finally returns with a new episode tonight — which means it's time to party! I'm not talking about Padma-style partying (although a little of that certainly wouldn't hurt, if you're so inclined) — I'm talking about chat partying. Join us!

The party happens is the comments section below this post, and the show airs on Bravo 10 pm EST (and also streams live from Bravo's website). As you participate, feel free to imbibe in whatever substance you like — assuming that wouldn't run afoul of any recent, ill-advised New Year's resolutions. (Remember, it's never too early to break a resolution!)

The picture above, from tonight's episode, shows Bravo programming exec Andy Cohen giving the ol' "doobie salute" while acting as a judge/host of tonight's quickfire challenge. (I wonder how he managed to score a guest stint on this show? Crazy!) Maybe he's signaling to an off-camera Padma about their after-show plans for the evening...? I guess we'll find out tonight.

If you missed our last open thread, it was a good one – highlighted by commenters' ingenious ideas for "New England-author-themed" dishes (inspired by the quickfire challenge). My favorites included the Dr. Seuss-inspired "sea-urchin truffula tree on a poached asparagus stalk awash in a gastrique" from commenter AuroraWhorealis — as well as this idea for an Emily Dickinson-inspired dish, from commenter kirac: "A dead quail 'nesting' two or three sunny-side-up quail eggs in a literal nest of risotto, representing the prevalence of death and how inextricable it is from life." Damn, you guys are brilliant. Did I ever mention that?

Well, I've mentioned it now. And having done so, it's time to mention a few things in store on tonight's episode:

  • The quickfire challenge will be to make ramen dishes using ingredients from college students' dorm rooms. So it's another of those "junk food" challenges the producers of this show seem to love — and the chefs always hate.
  • In the elimination challenge, the chefs will have to create french-cuisine dishes inspired by the late, great Julia Child. For true inspiration, they should follow Julia's advice and cook with wine — and maybe even put some of it in the food.
  • At the judging table, Tom Colicchio will tell the chefs: "The techniques of cooking your meats were all off." So it looks like they actually could've used some of that wine inspiration. Or maybe a few of Julia's upside-down martinis.

Party time approaches. I'll see you in the comments!

[Image via Bravo.]