Five to six year old threads only? I wonder what type of search engine you are using. I've ended up writing what seems the same answers for the same question you're asking here several times - and I joined less than 1 year ago!
Usually, for a recommendation on what knives to get, the individual wanting answers would also let the forum know what types of food will be cut up, what types of knives he/she already has and other information of the type. But since you're posting it as if it is for almost anywhere in the world, it sounds just like you're getting the information as if to write an article.
Just for the sake of getting the ball rolling, I will assume you're in the USA. With the exception of high-end knives (talking over $150 each), knives are mostly a customs market item, where the availability to buy in your country generally determines what your selection can consistently be. Otherwise, shipping and custom duty costs will skew the budget so far as to make comparisons a grab bag of different results. No matter what one person's experience will be, when importing any cutlery from another country, the vagarities of how the shipper may mess up the shipping process, or the individual customs officer might behaving a bad day, etc., etc., will make importing procedures a roulette wheel of predictions on the process.
You also have a budget of $200 to $300. I'm going to put it down as $300. That's not going to get you very far with "the best", since "the best" will invariably go much, MUCH higher in cost than your $300 budget, for just one knife.
You need to look at this as not just getting up to 3 knives - you also need to look at it as keeping the knives sharp and not unnecessarily dulling your knives. That means you need a way to sharpen the knives and a proper working surface to cut on.
That means (1) a sharpening system; (2) a proper cutting board; and (3) your new knives.
It doesn't matter one bit about getting shiny new knives with scary sharp edges, if you cannot sharpen your knives yourself. Soon enough, that sharp feeling will go away - and you will be frustrated as hades.
This forum generally doesn't like pull-through sharpeners. They make waaaaay too much damage to good knive edges, for not that good a sharpening result. The same can also be said for electric sharpening systems. Hand sharpening is the usual preferred method.
As for "Professional" sharpeners - unless you know what method they use, it's like Russian Roulette for your knives. I've seen some knives at a family house, where an in-law took them to a "professional" service, and the knives ended up damaged. This does not mean that all professionals are incompetent - Jon Broida and Dave Martell know what they are doing - but their services are not cheap.
In fact, sharpening should be the first priority. Even a cheap knife once somewhat sharpened will outperform the most expensive high-end chef's knife, once the expensive knife dulls.
For starters, I would suggest you read the following: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/?hl=chad+ward#entry353915
Chad Ward (the author of the above post) has also written a book on the subject and on high-quality knives in general, An Edge In The Kitchen. Published in 2008, the basic information is still valid, though the prices he lists in the book are out of date. The book costs somewhere in the $25 range, but if you have a good local public library, you might find it there, or get it through a library interloan system.
A basic Japanese water stone (800 to 1200 grit), at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width (longer and wider than that are better, but we also have to think about cost), will run somewhere around $30 to $40. Read Chad's post above several times, then have a go at it. Just do keep in mind that water stones need water. One CRITICAL bit of advice: Never use oil on a water stone!
If you don't feel sure about your hand skills, the Edge Pro Apex sharpening system will allow you to get consistent sharpening on your knives. The system begins at about $165, and Chef Knives To Go offers custom stone sets. I have one (the CKTG "Essential" kit, wuith 3 Shapton Glass stones and added accessories) and use it.
The second part of our triple system is the cutting surface. Here, you want something that has a Goldilocks approach - not too soft, not too hard. The surface has to be soft enough that the knife edge will not blunt when run across it, and hard enough so the knife edge won't get trapped (even microscopically).
Since you asked about "the best", the short answer is - "end grain hard wood". Plastic board will get scratched up fast enough - and the scratches will simply accumulate bits of food residue, which will be breeding grounds for pathogens. No matter what, avoid glass, granite, marble, steel, etc. - those will simply dull or (worse) break off pieces of the knife edge (known as "chipping").
Prominent nowadays are bamboo boards. However, professional knife sharpener Dave Martell has commented on the number of knife edges dulled by bamboo boards. The combination of naturally-occuring silca in bamboo and the high amount of hard glue used in the manufacturing process tends to make a very, VERY hard board.
Also to be avoided are composite boards. These use huge amounts of glue, in comparison to the amount of wood fibers (sawdust?) in the board, and are even harder on knife edges than bamboo.
Edge grain boards are the second-best alternative (just behind end grain boards). However, they are prone to getting permanent grooves and have some of the same problems as plastic boards (but not to the same extent).
The most prominent name in wood boards is John Boos. The next name that comes up is Michigan Maple Block. Both of those two are the 800-pound gorillas in the kitchen, when it comes to restaurant and commercial kitchen use of wood cutting boards. Both make products which are top grade - but each of them, from time to time, have made individual boards which have failed. Wood is not a uniform product - and it's necessary for the end consumer to carefully inspect the received product.
When getting or inspecting a board, pick it up and take a good look. What you want to see is no holes or gaps or cracks. Anything like that is cause for rejection.
Board sizes are all over the map. A good general size is 12 inches high by 18 inches wide by 2 inches thick. That will give you enough room to use your knife and to keep a few piles of food ready to be transferred to a bowl. However, that might not be what's available.
Personally, I also have a 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain Michigan Maple Block board, using maple (what else?) - and like it.
The number of small-scale board makers is many, many times more than I can count on my fingers. Heck, it's even more than I can count on all of my fingers AND toes, so, with one exception, I will not bring them up. The exception is The BoardSMITH. The only quibble about his products are that they are mostly out of my price range.
Treatment of an end grain hard wood cutting board is simple. I use food grade mineral oil - which I buy from a local Safeway grocery store for $3.49 (plus tax) for 1 pint. The board I discussed above used about 12 oz. of oil when I first bought it. I also use a scraper to initially clean off the board, then a quick hand wash with a nylon scrubbing pad with hot soapy water, towel dry, then hand-sprayed with vinegar to the cutting surface before putting up to air dry (the vinegar spray is allowed to stay on and evaporate or break down). The board will then be sanitary for its next use.
And never, NEVER, NEVER PUT A WOOD CUTTING BOARD INTO STANDING WATER OR A DISHWASHER
Now to the third part of the discussion. Since I'm presuming that you are asking about generic information, I will start with establishing a budget. With a water stone costing, say, $40, and a Michigan Maple Block 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain board, for $60. That would leave you with $200.
Next, forget about this being for 5 to 7 years. Any good knife should last longer than that. The trick here is to get what you can now, and upgrade later, but not waste your money.
The basic, simplest recommendation is for a primary, chef's knife and a small paring knife. The only other knife to add would be a serrated edge bread knife.
With just $200, I would concentrate the money on the Chef's knife. That will take the bulk of the budget - so I will talk about the other two knives first.
First, the paring knife. This is for everything which is too small for your chef's knife - and that's not all that much, but it will be some things. One general rule of thumb is to size a paring knife, so the blade would be roughly the length of your index finger. That way, when you are holding the knife, the tip will be roughly the length of the index finger.
There are several styles of paring knives. The regular length with upturned tip is known as a "spear point". A straight (no curve) edge with downturned spine (the top of the blade) is known as a "sheepsfoot". And a concave edge blade would be referred to as a "bird's beak". Personally, I prefer the sheepsfoot, but a spear point paring knife is also common. Unless you do specialty French cooking, a bird's beak paring knife will be somewhat unneeded.
Paring knives get lost easily. They get grabbed and used as pry bars. They...., well the idea is that don't expect the paring knife to be all that permanent. Many chefs will simply buy what's on sale, and replace their paring knives on a somewhat semi-often basis. For that reason, a Victorinox , Fibrox handle paring knife will run about $7 or so. 'nuff said.
Bread knives are specialized. They are used to cut through a tough skin into a soft interior. That included breads. It also includes such foods as tomatoes. Inexperienced cooks also grab them and use them for cutting roasts or anything else - but the serrations will not really cut so smoothly as a good chef's knife - except for the aforementioned hard crust/skin, soft interior foods.
Serrated knives are difficult to sharpen (don't try to use them with a water stone!, unless you want to damage the water stone!). As a result, professional kitchens don't consider the bread knife to be permanent, but buy replacements as needed, rather than sharpen them.
Victorinox makes a good basic bread knife with their fibrox handle. Prices vary, so if I could buy on sale, I might look for a 10.25 inch one for the $35 range (though I have recently seen them on sale for $15).
That's going to leave you with about $150 to $160 for your chef's knife - IF you have a $300 budget to begin with, and you need cutting board, single sharpening stone, and are also buying paring and bread knife.
For a chef's knife, the first thing to consider is whether the knife has a flatter blade profile (a "French" pattern) or has more curvature of the edge (a "German" profile). Knives with more curvature are referred to as having more "belly".
At this point of the discussion, you need to ask yourself about what types of foods you will be cooking - and how you will be cutting the foods during prep.
You will also need to ask yourself how much food will be cut up for most sessions. A smaller work load calls for a smaller knife, but a large knife will chop up a lot of food much faster.
And at this point, I'm going to suggest that everyone else jump in - and think about what chef's knife they would buy for $150 to $160.
What the OP is going to find is that the recommendations in that range will involve a very wide spectrum.
Edited by Galley Swiller - 2/16/14 at 11:45am