Nothing fills me with homicidal rage faster than trying to cook a meal with a crappy chef knife. If you cook even once a month, buying a good chef knife is a good investment. People always tell me they hate cooking for 2 reasons, having to clean up and cutting vegetables. Cutting vegetables with your average home cooks knife is like using a croissant as a napkin, it does not do the job and it makes a massive mess. People always tell me they are too scared to buy a sharp knife because they will cut themselves. The irony is that you are exponentially more likely to cut yourself with a crappy knife than you are with a razor sharp chef knife. When using a blunt knife you are forced to exert a lot of downward pressure on the knife which is tiring and extremely dangerous if the knife slips, which it will do if its not sharp. With a sharp chef knife it is very easy to cut through the toughest of vegetables and meats. Now that I have convinced you to buy a chef knife lets discuss your options. As far as professionals go there are two options: German steel and Japanese steel. Without going into too much detail German steel is thicker, Heavier and requires less intense care and upkeep. Japanese steel is light, thin, razor sharp and generally requires more TLC to maintain a good edge. There are companies that sell knives that are marketed towards home cooks that balance the best of both worlds. I will give you my preferred choices from each category

Japanese- Far and away my favorite Japanese knife brand is Shun. shun makes many knives and has 2 versions of virtually every knife they make. They have the classic edition and the premier edition. The Shun 8 inch chef knife is definitely my choice here.-

German- In my opinion the German category is very complicated. One of the best companies Wusthof made weaponry for the SS gestapo that bears the same logo they still use today. I will not purchase/use knives from Wusthof. That being said they do make incredibly high quality knives and you can make your own moral decisions. (just know you are a terrible person if you buy one). Henckles is your next best option. They make high quality knives and at their lower price may actually be the best value.

Crossover Knives- The most popular home chef knife maker in America is Victorinox. They are made by the same company that makes swiss army knives. They are relatively cheap but effective at the same time-

Budget buy- If you do not like any of these options, this Cuisinart set is cheap and actually pretty decent-

After you buy a knife I suggest you read up on proper knife maintenance. There are many videos online that are very educational.