Cast iron skillet
3 Sharp knifes of different sizes ( can probably get away with 1 small and just 1 medium )
Tongs, really if your kitchen doesn't have a good set of tongs you're missing out
Butter <- yeah butter, its a tool
A good stock pot
I use Shun knives, but there are several good ones out there. Expect to pay around $100 for a good chef's. You really don't need a full block set of knives. Most are useless. Two knives, top quality, done.
Learn to use a steel to keep the edge aligned but have them professionally sharpened. Never put them in the dishwasher.