I'm a fan of Japanese knives, but if you're an inexperienced home cook that's not a food geek or knife nerd, Henckels, Wusthof or Messermeister will do you fine. If I'm only going to have one chef's knife I'd go with a 10". My recommendation would be this Messermeister Chef's Knife 10".
If you're really more comfortable with an 8 incher, I'd suggest Messermeister 2 Pc Starter Set-
you get an 8" chef's knife and a nice paring knife for a pretty good price. Of course, you can also get just the chef's knife and a cheap paring knife. The other knife I'd recommend is Kershaw Kai Shun Wasabi Black 9" Bread Knife.
It has the same scalloped serrations as the much more expensive Shun line but it's only $35. I have two of them, one for my work knife case and one in case I lose the first one. It's that good. No need to spend much more. I like the Messermeisters best of all Germans because they don't have full bolsters. This allows you to sharpen the entire length of the blade, something which you can't really do with your stardard Wusthofs.
You can do 99% of all the cutting chores you'll ever face with those three knives. Toss in a peeler and you're all set. If you "catch the bug" and start cooking as a serious hobby you might want to add a few more knives (maybe for meat cutting and stuff like that) but those 3 will be a great start.
To keep them all sharp, I've long recommended the Edgemaker Pro set.
It's very easy to use and will keep those types of knives good and sharp. The whole set is just under 30 bucks and will probably last you your whole life. You can even use the yellow "handy honer" to keep your bread knife sharp- that's one great thing about the scalloped-style serrations.