Meat. Otherwise you're just wasting your time. I suggest pork butts and maybe a couple fatties for the maiden voyage.
There is absolutely no need to fire it up empty. (See above.
Nor would I include starter cubes in the essential list. I've never used them so they cannot be essential. Brown paper (old style grocery bags, charcoal bags) work well as do pieces of newspaper.
Oh, and welcome to the Brethren! :D