It's time to kick off another season-long serving of that big, steaming plate of reality-show comfort food, Top Chef. And what goes better with comfort food than good company? Nothing, of course! So join us as we live-chat the premiere episode together in the comments!

Yes, just like mom's mac-and-cheese casserole, the reassuring ingredients of this show never seem to change: quickfire challenges; restaurant wars; "pack your knives and go"; Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi on the judging panel — it's all still there, just like it was years ago, when we were all so young and carefree. Sure, it's a little cheesy, and it may not be especially nourishing — but so what? As this shitty, troubled and unstable world seems to get worse every day, all we want is a little calming, reassuring stasis to help keep us sane. Is that too much to ask?

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes — open thread! So, here's how it works: Just turn on your TV, watch the show (which starts at 10 Eastern on Bravo) and post comments about it below. The rest of us will do the same. And while we're at it, we can revive many comforting rituals from years past (when I hosted Top Chef live blogs on Gawker, under the name "MisterHippity") — such as:

  • Playing the Top Chef Drinking Game. Starter rules include drinking whenever: something bursts into flame (whether by accident or design); Padma shouts "utensils down!"; a contestant's curse get bleeped; or anyone says the word "inedible," "palate," "acidic," "cheftestant," "infused" or "plate" (as a verb). Feel free create more rules as we go!
  • Inventing nicknames for contestants. I've already come up with two to get us started; see below.
  • Playing "How Stoned Is Padma?" This involves rating how stoned Padma looks from scene to scene, on a scale from 1 ("slightly buzzed") to 5 ("totally wasted").* For example, her appearance in the picture above would probably rate a "4."

This season takes place in Boston, and judging from the previews, the challenges will be chock full of touristy regional clichés (Fenway Park, the "Cheers" bar, the Freedom Trail, etc.), which no doubt resulted from the Bravo's "partnership" with the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau for this season (read: they got paid big tourism bucks to feature this stuff). But the previews also show plenty of promisingly entertaining moments, such as chefs getting drunk, fighting and swearing at each other, judges trying dishes and immediately looking like they might vomit, and Padma running like a crazy person through a supermarket and dropping a container of fish heads on the floor. So I'm confident we'll have a lot to look forward to!

Here's a quick look at a few of this season's more interesting-looking chefs:

  • Gregory Gourdet is talented, likeable, tall, black and kind of dorky, and he wears horn-rimmed glasses all the time — in other words, he seems like male version of Season 5 fan favorite Carla Hall. So I've already nicknamed him "Male Carla."
  • Stacy Cogswell is from Boston. Perhaps sensing that this fact may give her an advantage in this Boston-based season, she mentions it a lot. Example:"I'd have to move out of Boston if I lost this challenge!"
  • Aaron Grissom appears to be this season's asshole-ish, "I'm not here to make friends" dude. Here's a sample of his pleasant banter with a fellow chef: "We're so fucking tired of you talking! Just shut your fucking mouth!"
  • Katsuji Tanabe is a multicultural wonder: raised in Mexico by a Japanese father and Mexican mother, and the owner of a kosher taco restaurant ("Mexikosher"). He also talks a lot. I think he was the one that Grissom was telling to shut the fuck up.
  • George Pagonis, a Washington DC-based chef who specializes in Greek cuisine, is the business partner of memorable Season 6 jerk Mike Isabella. Early on, George will say: "If I don't last long in this competition, Mike's definitely gonna rub it in my face. He'll never let me forget." Just because he said that, I predict that George will be the one of the first chefs to be eliminated this season.
  • Mei Lin (who likes to use liquid nitrogen) works as a sous chef for Season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio (who likes to use liquid nitrogen). Getting on Top Chef is all about connections these days, I guess.
  • Michael Patlazhan, an accountant-turned-chef from Brooklyn, sounds just like Arnold Horshack when he talks. So I've nicknamed him "Horshack." (Am I showing my age here? Does anyone else remember Welcome Back, Kotter?)

OK, it's almost showtime. Time to grab a comforter and get comfortable. I'll see you in the comments!

(* Note to any Lakshmi lawyers who may be reading this: This game is based Padma's stoned appearance — not any assertion that she really smokes pot while they film these episodes. Ha ha! Who would ever suggest such a thing?)

[Image via Bravo]