I'm ready to invest in a good chef's knife. I'm told Wusthof is one of the best, but I'm also hearing Victorinox makes a good one.
Reasonably priced is always the catch! I have Wusthof, Henkles and Shun. I prefer Wusthof over Henkles, but both have been adequate. But I really LOVE my Shun knives. From the handle design to the blade itself, it's been a superior knife for me. The thin blade is great for precision cutting, chopping through dense foods, and boning. In the stores, they're quite expensive, but you can find some great prices on amazon and at cooking.com.
I agree with ChezSuzanne with regard to Shun knives. I own about 100 knives (hey, I'm a knife guy) and I do believe that Japanese knives are superior to German knives today. Shun employs a modern version of forged Damascus steel that is extremely sharp and really holds an edge. They have comfortable grips too. Japan has a millenium old tradition of sword making, so they're pretty damn good on kitchen knives. Shun knives are expensive in a range from about $100 to close to $500. The Bob Kramer series is the most expensive and the most elegant. No dis on German knives, I still own my first chef's knife, Wabaco from Solingen, Germany---a gift from my mother 30 years ago. It's a great knife.
This is one case where best is the wrong idea. Think good value for the money and think this knife better feel good in my hand.
Both companies you mention make fine knifes at multiple price points. You need to decide your price point, find a knife that is confortable and then make sure you get a "Fair" (not always the cheapest) price.
I always go to Sur La Table and have them pull out every knife they have. I go to their cutting board and chop the carrots they have on hand. I see which feels comfortable in my hand. Some like lighter knife feel others like heavy, some like longer some like shorter it is all a personal preference. I then have them put all the knives back even the one I like. Then I go home and find the cheapest place online to buy it and purchase it there.
How serious of a knife are you talking about? For many of us, knives are the most important tool in the kitchen, an extension of our bodies. For others, spending more than $20 on a knife is ludicrous. Personally, the days of Wustoff and Henckels being the cat's meow have passed. In fact, I think those days were somewhere in the 90's. If you want to go high-end, think Japanese. Shun is a good commercially made solution, perfect for most home cooks. Or, if you want bang for your buck and very affordable - check out the Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife, Model 40520
I agree with sygyzy (the name of a very fine dance by Paul Taylor). The folks at Cooks Illustrated gave the Fibrox a very high rating compared to knives twice to three times the price.
My Shun chef's knife is simply indispensable. Well worth the price!!! I can do anything with it --- debone, cut-up a whole chicken, slice veggies, cut thin, lovely pieces of fruit...