Mark Bittman answers the question "What kitchen equipment should I buy?" and he does it very well in his minimalist style. His recommendation in total is within a $200-$300 budget and most importantly he also answers what not to buy. Great article! Don't overbuy or overpay and I agree.
It looks like if you want the ultimate – money is no issue – I guess you get the titanium cookware set from Hestan Culinary and/or this copper set from Mafter Bourgeat but I wouldn't. My recommendation is to go with Mafter Bourgeat for one of their black steel pans (the 11 7/8" one) and get the remainder from their stainless steel collection: grab the 9-1/2" and 11" fry pans, the 1-3/4 quart and 4 quart sauce pans, the 7-1/2 quart stock pot, and optionally the 4 quart saute pan. Altogether, these should run you about $400-$500.
There's a detail with these Mafter pots and pans that's not in most cookware. The handles are attached in a way where the rivets don't go through so the interior is clean. These pots were also recommended in the French Laundry cookbook way back when and that's how I first heard about this brand.