Being a chef, I have a predilection for sharp objects of all types. And, with the gift-giving season upon us, I can think of no better gift to give your foodie loved one than cutlery. With the power of the Internet and the inventory at our local cooking stores, there are more knife options out there than food choices on a Friday's menu.
Every good cook, bad cook, and aspiring chef needs a chef knife. The chef knife is the engine of a knife set and good knife skills are essential for making food well. If you could have only one knife, this is the one to get. I recommend a good forged German knife with full-tang construction. Full-tang means the steel of the blade runs through the length of handle and provides for a sturdier knife and better balance. In my opinion, the eight-inch chef knife is the way to go: it dices, chops, minces, and cuts through chicken bones. The Wusthof-Trident Classic series is a great starter knife that will last a lifetime (I have my first Trident from 1992, and it's still perfect). The other plus with Wusthof is that they are guaranteed for life. So, if you drop the thing and snap off the tip, you can return it to your retailer and get a new one.
With Japanese knives, the art and history of their forging enamor me. I have a sushi knife that was made by a historic sword-making family; it is one of my most prized possessions. It has the balance and feel of a Stradivarius ,and it sings to me when I put the sharpening steel to it. If you have a foodie that may want more than the basic German stuff, your options are plentiful. Kitchen Window in Uptown has a great selection of MAC, Global (not my favorite), and Masahiro. The beauty of the Japanese chef knife is that they are generally very thin steel, so care needs to be taken,] as they are somewhat brittle. But, this affords for a sharper blade and finer knife skill work.
The knife I use for most everything, everyday is an eight-and-a-half-inch Masahiro chef-style knife, which my mentor gave to me in 1995. I would be lost without it. I have tried to switch chef knives but can't bring myself to do it. I have five or six chef knives, and that one is the only one I use. I can't really quantify my attachment, it has just always been there for me, and I vow it to use it until it can't do the job any longer, which I hope is never. It is constructed of carbon steel, so it will rust, and I don't cut tomatoes or cheese with it as it tarnishes cheese, and the tomatoes make it rust. This knife is super thin and dulls quickly but sharpens to a razor instantly. This is not the knife for everyone, but with care, it will last forever . . . hopefully.
Another integral part to the knife set is the sharpening steel. This is that rough-surfaced rod with a handle that you see your butcher running his knife over and over. The steel will keep your knife honed and your edge true; you should use it often, like, before, during, and after each use. If used correctly, you can forego having to sharpen your knives but for a few times a year. Here is a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions for using a sharpening steel right.
So, shop, chop, mince, and give sharp objects.