I started cooking professionally 10 years ago, and over the past decade there are a few tools that I've come to appreciate that make meal preparation a little easier. The truth is, you don't need a ton of fancy appliances to create delicious food—though there are some that are nice to have around. Here are a few of my essential kitchen tools (and a few things I dream of owning some day):
Wusthof 8-Inch Chef's Knife: Hands down, this is the tool that gets the most use in my kitchen. I never understood how important it is to have a sharp knife until I started working in restaurants, and for me, the 8-inch knife has the perfect heft while not being unwieldily. You really don't need a whole set of 10 knives—the only ones I use are my chef's knife, a serrated knife, and a small paring knife.
Kitchen Tongs: I think these maybe cost $5 at a kitchen store in New York, but I use them for everything from tossing salads to stir-frying to serving pasta. These were another find from my restaurant days, and show that sometimes, the most utilitarian tool can be the most effective. I prefer 7-inch metal ones because they're easier to control and can be used on very hot pans or grills, but there are lots of silicone and metal options out there as well.
Pan Rack: This is a new addition to my arsenal and happened to be already installed in our place when we moved in—lucky for me! In my old kitchens where storage was tight, pans were stored on the bottom shelves of cupboards, where they were hard to get at and awkward to remove. This rack ensures that they're always within easy reach, and I plan to have something similar in any future kitchens I have.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer: Classic for a reason, this workhorse of a mixer makes whipping up cakes, bread, and even meringues effortless. My handheld mixer works fine for now, but I'd love to have one of these some day.
BlueStar Range or La Cornue Range: As a renter, I've never gotten much choice when it came to appliances. Luckily our current place has a gas stove, but one day when I have my dream kitchen, it would be amazing to cook on a range like this one. BlueStar and La Cornue both hand-craft professional-grade stoves, and BlueStar in particular is a favorite of chefs and serious home cooks alike—plus you can choose custom colors!
Vitamix: As someone who's had smoothie fall out of the bottom of an improperly screwed in blender multiple times, I appreciate a good one. Vitamix is always at the top of its category, and is said to be able to liquify whole vegetables with ease (which, incidentally, makes for healthier juice than a juicer because you get to have all of the vitamins in the pulp.) My friend Ariel swears by her Vitamix, and even pre-packages smoothie ingredients in her freezer to make mornings a little easier.