This is what you really need.
A large, solid wooden cutting board. If you cant imagine a Thanksgiving turkey fitting on it comfortably, it is too small.
A very good chef's knife. You dont need a set. 8-10 inches will do (thats what she said). Pay once, cry once. I like my MAC Professional series knife. A paring knife is a good idea as well. And a serrated knife is a bonus for tomatoes, bread, etc... A sharpening stick would be a good idea as well.
You need a good set of quality pans. I'd get one 10 inch or less, non-stick pan for eggs. And use it only for eggs. I'd get one large saute pan. I'd get one cast iron pan and a dutch oven (Le Creuset is my brand of choice for Dutch, Lodge for Cast iron). You need a sauce pan with lid (about 2 quarts), a roasting pan, and a pasta/stock pot. Your best bet is to go to a restaurant supply store to buy all of the above.
That is literally all you need. If you can cook well with those tools, you can cook. Everything else is just a sub for those tool. Not that you shouldn't get them, but learn first than take shortcuts.
ETA: After that, I like an immersion blender, Kitchen Aid Mixer, food processor, and ice cream machine.
This post was edited on 11/20 at 12:01 pm