It depends on your skill level, but I’m going to presume that as you are asking this, you are probably new to the game or someone who enjoys cooking at home. It is essential to know your knives.
My suggestion for anyone who hasn’t owned a chef knife before is getting a Victorinox Fibrox.
Know Your Knives If You Are A Beginner
There are several reasons that I suggest this knife for beginners. First, it has the right edge on it but can also sharpen very very quickly. This is important as I have seen many people go out and splurge on an expensive chef knife and two months later it is about as sharp as a bucket.. the best chef knife is a sharp one, regardless of price!!
You will have some bad habits to start with, and you will also be learning how to care for and sharpen it, this will mean excessive wear and issues with the blade. Far better to do that to a cheaper knife.
Lastly, they are bombproof, they last forever, and despite it being one of the first knives I bought (over 15 years ago as an apprentice chef) I still have it and use it (although not as often now as I prefer Furi and Shuns).
I will make a final point. If you are starting out driving a car, you don’t jump straight in and buy a Ferrari. Same with drinking red wine or eating expensive food, you start cheaper and build on your knowledge, skill, personal preference, and understanding. From that, you find out what you like and invest more money further down the line once you can make an informed decision.
Know The Cheap And Expensive Ones: What Is The Difference?
Define cheap. I have had Chinese knives that worked fine but would rust and feel light in hand.
They work but feel cheap and uncomfortable.
Inexpensive commercial knives such as Dexter can be there in most restaurants that have multiple line chefs and prep cooks. Judge them on performance, not price.
They are made for a lifetime of hard use and sharpen readily to a razor edge. The hidden tangs in hard plastic clean germs better than wooden grips and never wear out.
I lived above a 4-star restaurant, and the owner and chef gave me a set of knives from his weekly rental service that he explained will do anything a chef needs:
10-inch chefs knife
10 in slicer
6-inch boning knife
All were Dexter, and this was 1980.
I still use them all daily. They are all a tad smaller due to sharpening, but they hone to a fine edge every time.
I have some expensive Japanese knives that I’ve collected over the years.
Sharp and the Damascus patterns are jewel-like.
I still reach for my old Dexters most often.
I sharpen knives as one of my services, and one thing that stands out is expensive German knives are sturdy and, of course, beautiful, but it takes a belt sander sharpening process to bring them back to edge. Most consumers try a variety of sharpening gadgets that tend to ruin the angle and make the edge duller.