While I am no expert on kitchen utensils, I do know what I use, what I like, what I want and what I think is useless.
The most important tool(s) for any chef is their knives. It is important to have a good set and not necessarily an expensive one. While I’d love to have a set of professional knives, I’m very happy with my fairly inexpensive Chicago Cutlery set. It included a variety of knives (paring, chef, bread, etc.) and honing steel. Yes, sharpeners are important. I don’t mean those crappy ones you see in tv ads, but a good honing steel and a whetstone. Personal preference perhaps, but will keep your knives sharp longer. Have a friend or professional show you how to use them so you don’t screw up!
Kitchen appliances have come a long way since I was a kid watching my mom cook. Of them all, a good stand mixer is a must if you bake. I love my professional grade Kitchenaid and use it often. There are a few models out there that are pretty good and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Blenders are good to have and I wish I had a really good food processor. That’s my next kitchen investment. There are plenty of smaller gadgets that I’ll be talking about later.
Also, get yourself a GOOD cutting board. And avoid glass ones at all costs – they are bad for your knives, and dull them a lot faster. I tend to avoid wood, mainly because I’m lazy with the necessary upkeep. The thin silicone mats aren’t bad, but I prefer the thick, reversable, polypropylene ones. Don’t bother with the ones that offer “feet” – save yourself the trouble and put a dish towel or wet paper towel under it and it won’t slide around the counter.