For those who cook, knives matter. Good cooking equipment and tools can make it a real joy, as well as faster and easier. For the casual cook, and that even means someone whipping up meals every day for a family, just about any knives do and we are not going much into them. My mother and sister for example, who cook nearly every day of their lives, are fine with an inexpensive kitchen knife set from wherever. For someone like my professional chef brother in law, or even me, a wannabe chef who goes wild cooking every couple of weeks at most, they matter a lot.
The main styles of professional knives are German style and Japanese style, and both are great but quite a bit different. It depends to a large extent on what you like. Examples of German style knives include Wusthof or Henckels (the professional “J.A. Henckels” brand). Examples of Japanese style knives include Shuns and Global. Many professionals and serious amateurs own both types and may have multiple brands in their kitchens. There are many places were you can pickup and feel knives, including stores that sell them, although a friend’s kitchen may be best as you might be able to actually use them in practice and see how you like them.
German style knives are heavier, and have a hefty and solid feel in the hand. They are strong and robust and will stand up to punishment just like a German tank. A good German Chefs knife is very multipurpose and strong and can do just about anything. These have traditionally been the most popular, and just a few decades ago Japanese style knives were nearly unknown in the US.
Japanese style knives are lighter and not as multi purpose. You would not hack at bone with them as although they are extremely sharp, they are brittle, just like a samurai sword and are often made by layering steel just like swords. Each knife tends to be for more specialized than with German knives. If German knives are like a tank, Japanese knives are more like a Porsche or Lotus.
Personally, I own both types and find I prefer each type for various activities. It is however really a matter of personal preference. I suggest you do some more research. One thing is for sure however. If you have been using mediocre knives, and most people have been, the difference in quality can and will amaze you!
For more information on choosing cooking great knives of either style, visit Shun Knife Set [http://shunknifeset.org] or Shun Ken Onion Chefs Knife [http://shunknifeset.org/ken-onion-chefs.htm]. Great knives are a joy to cook with!