The purpose of the dimples is, indeed, to help food "release" from the side of the knife. The dimples themselves are also called "kullens." Knives which have them are termed, "hollow ground," "scalloped," "Granton," "kullenschiffen," and probably some other words which aren't jumping to mind. All of the terms except kullenschiffen are somewhat ambiguous.
Cutting to the chase, dimples work fairly well if they're well executed -- but they usually aren't. My recommendation is that you forget about them as a "professional" or even a positive feature in a go-to knife.
Why Guam guessed that the knife you were shown is a santoku is beyond me. Some santokus have dimples, most don't; and the same can be said about several other profiles including chef's knives (aka gyuto) and slicers.
FWIW, a "santoku" is a sort of cross between a European chef's knife and a "nakiri" developed by Japanese makers about seventy years ago to be a do-it-all knife for someone with no knife skills who works on a very small board. The distinctive features of a santoku are height running all the way to a steeply dropped tip, a fairly flat profile, and a relatively short overall length.
It's modern popularity is a little bit wider than "Japanese housewife," and some western pros like to use them. But for most professionals, budding professionals and knife-skills teachers -- not a great choice.
The best single, school and work knife profile for your daughter will be a chef's knife of some sort. Which particular knife is going to largely depend on several things including how much you're willing to spend. The most popular length, especially among women is 8". However, for a lot of reasons, the ~10" range (240cm to 270cm) is better.
The least expensive, decent chef's knives cost about $30, but you can keep spending money to get ever better performance, fit and finish, edge properties, etc., up to about $350.
The near $100 price range has several knives which represent entry-level to good knives; and the range just above that, going from $130 to $165 has some solid knives. At the next level you start to find the "life time" knives you were talking about. Before buying anything that expensive, you might want to consider that in the school and professional kitchen environment knives are frequently abused, lost and stolen.
All things considered, I think you're best choosing a knife oriented towards all-around performance rather than one which gives up too much to enhance any particular aspect -- even edge properties; it should be durable rather than extremely light weight; and it should be stainless.
The least expensive, but still good chef's knife you can buy is a "Forschner by Victorinox" from either their Rosewood or Fibrox series (the only difference is the handle). It's serviceable. Maybe not what you're looking for though.
Still under a hundred, but with significantly more performance:
- Fujiwara FKM;
- Richmond Artifex; and
- Tojiro DP
If you want to talk better knives, we can; but I can't talk about every knife on the market, you'll have to come up with some guide lines. The one thing I'm going to say for now is no Global, no Shun -- no matter who recommends them to you. Unfortunately, the knife selections at BB&B, SLT, and WS are not very good. If you're looking for high-value/high-performance knives you'll probably end up buying from the internet without any opportunity to "test" the knives in a retail store. Don't worry; it works out well.
The most important part of knife skills and knife use is sharpness. Professionals should be able to sharpen their own knives because most services not only do a lousy job, but hold on to the knife for a few days while they're doing it. As part of your gift, consider getting your daughter a really good sharpening system along with a suitable honing rod.