This is my first post on ChefTalk. Glad to be here :D
I came here to seek some advice, as after reading a bit, it seems like you guys have the knowledge to help me make up my mind on this issue.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a chef - but an avid home cook. I am also somewhat of a perfectionist and a geek.
I also live in Israel - this is relevant to my question (I'll explain why shortly).
Now a little bit of background - you don't have to read this, but I figure it'll probably make it easier for you to give me advice, as I'll try to best explain my needs, likes and dislikes.:
About two years ago, when I realized that I LOVE cooking, I decided to get myself some decent knives. Having read about the difference between European and Japanese knives, I eventually decided to go for the Europeans (at least as a starting point), for the following reasons:
A) Generally speaking, I prefer the 'classic' German handles, although I'm fairly comfortable with some Japanese ones as well.
B) Ease of maintenance - I figured (perhaps wrongly) that I should start with a softer steel that I can more easily maintain and sharpen.
C) Selection - the higher end knife market here is growing, but when I got mine there were less choices on the market than there are today - especially for the Japanese knives. Unfortunately, some brands still have not found their way here (like MACs), although many of the more well known ones have.
D) This is the biggy - price. Due to crazy-ass importers, prices vary WILDLY here. Israel is generally expensive for cookware (hell, for everything really), so I'd say on average knives cost probably around 30% more than in the US (basing on online prices) - but this varies from only about 10% more to 200% (not kidding) for the same knife. And unfortunately, the Japanese ones tend to be marked up considerably more (probably because they have somewhat of a luxury item reputation and importers think rich people wouldn't notice).
I eventually got a set of Wusthof classics for the above reasons (also - I know it's better to buy them one by one, but in this case I found the set at a much better price than it would cost me to piece it together, and all the knives it came with see at least some use, with the exception of the Tourne which I hardly ever touch).
Generally speaking, I don't regret the purchase. It cost me around 500$ (for a 8" chef, 8" carving, 4.5" utility, 8" bread, 5" sausage - one of my favorites actually, tourne, steel scissors and block) which is a good price around here. The knives have brought me a lot of joy in the kitchen.
As for the sharpening, I bought a 1000/3000 combo stone - from Wusthof too, partially because I didn't research properly and kind of figured that stones were created equal (I know better now) and partially because the stone availability here is very, very poor.
I'll admit that I'm not very good at using the stone. I've been improving lately, but I'm still far from great. It took me a while to figure out the proper motions (also, it seems to me like my stone works somewhat better when dry and not wet, even though wusthof themselves say it's meant to be soaked in water - does this make sense?). My knives have a few scratches, but I'm not bothered by that.
I also just bought a chef's choice 130 (which I should receive in a couple of days), thinking that even though I would like to get better with the stone, when push comes to shove I would probably find my cooking more enjoyable if I could easily keep all my knives servicably sharp. I've read many good reviews about it.
Now, my actual question:
I'm moving out of my parents' house in a week or two (I'm 22, and we tend to move out a little later around here). Since I bought my knives, my mom has taken to using them as well. She (understandably) can't go back to using cheapo knives. So I was faced with an option - buy her new knives and take my Wusthofs, or leave her the knives and get myself new ones. Tentatively, I've decided on option two.
Which means that I need to buy myself some knives. I couldn't live without getting a chef's knife (want to move up to 10"), a petty and a bread knife. I also like a good slicing knife. However, having spent a bit of money lately, and having realized that not every knife in my collection needs to be a 100$ knife, I've decided to get rosewood-handled forschners for the bread (8"), slicer (12") and petty (6"). These won't cost me much, and I can give them some abuse and keep them sharp enough on the chef's choice.
For the chef's knife, however, I want to get myself something better. I couldn't step down from the Wusthof to a Forschner (although I know it's not a very big step, judging by everything I've read). This is where everything I wrote above comes into play. I can't decide whether to go for a European blade or a Japanese this time around. I do love my Wusthofs, but at the end of the day the Japanese make a better knife.
However, ease of sharpening is still a factor - especially seeing as I now have (or will, in a few days) a chef's choice which is made for 20* knives and not 15* asian ones. I also don't want to get another stone yet, as a good 8000 grit one would probably set me back at least another 80$ or so (more like 100-120 if I buy it here and not off ebay, and it would be hard to find a good one) although I am not ruling it out in the future, and to be fair my current skills probably won't let me see the benefit of a 8000 grit stone at this point anyway.
Having surveyed my local market (I'd rather not order from ebay if I can help it, for reasons of service options - I want to be able to take the knife to a store if anything goes wrong, plus shipping here isn't cheap, although I am not 100% ruling it out), I've narrowed it down to two options:
1) A 9 or 10 inch Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu. Would cost me around 140$, which seems to be close to the US price (the few places that still carry it anyway, I know it's been discontinued - although it's still available here). I also understand that it isn't actually ground at 20* but at 18* (although I can't actually find any confirmation of this by Wusthof in any catalogs/FAQs) but I wouldn't be too fearful of using the chef's choice on it. The two degrees probably wouldn't matter much, and anyway it's sure as hell closer than I can freehand (and I can't find any angle guides here either). I've handled this knife and I find it comfortable, plus I know from experience that I like the Wusthof geometry. It seemed sharp enough to handle my demands, although the geek in me wants more (greedy bastard).
2) A 9.5" (24cm) Kasumi chef's knife. Would cost me around 210$, which is remarkably close the US price (according to the websites I checked, like cutlery and more). In comparison, for some strange reason I can't begin to fathom, a 10" shun classic costs around 340$ here. I have NO idea why, they don't even have publicity here. So I consider this a good value in terms of money lost by import. However, is this worth it? The Kasumi is VG-10, so it's unarguably better steel. It's also hand-finished and strikingly beautiful (although this isn't a major factor - like I said, I don't care TOO much about my knives' looks). On the flip side, I'm worried I won't be able to keep it properly sharpened - and I wouldn't dare stick it in the chef's choice.
I've handled both knives. OOTB, the Kasumi wasn't much sharper - but I understand that OOTB sharpness isn't a real factor. The Kasumi will take a much better edge, I have no doubt. They both felt comfortable in my hands, although the Cordon Bleu a little more so. I didn't get a chance to use them much, so I don't know how much I'd like/dislike the Kasumi's geometry, but I imagine I'd like it just fine.
All that said - I'm only 22, so I have a whole life of knife-handling ahead of me. I wouldn't be too beat up about either choice. I'm sure many more will come in the future. Also, I'm more than open to any suggestions any of you might have outside the two knives I listed - although keep in mind that not all choices are available to me (like I said, I would've seriously considered a MAC - but they're unavailable here).
Pheeeeeew. That was long. Anyone who's actually read through all that - well you have my thanks already.
Given everything I've described, which knife or knives should I purchase?