First of all, don’t buy a set as most contain knives that may not be useful and even if you did have a need for them, you wouldn’t want all of your knives to have the same characteristics. You’re better off selecting each knife -- ala cart and choosing whatever characteristics are best suited for knifes’ intended tasks.
I’m not a pro, but something like this might be good start…10” chef’s knife, 3 ½” paring knife, Tournade paring knife / petty for garnishing, boning knife and some sort of beater for tough stuff, 12” meat slicer, 10” bread knife, Borosilicate honing rod, sharpening stones
Imo, Shuns are designed to appeal to the mass-market consumers’ deeply rooted preference for German knives and include qualities like attractive aesthetics, excellent fit & finished, large / weighted handles, hefty feel, curved blades and other traits normally associated with German Knives. Plus they’re easy to find, have a great warranty / customer service and offer free sharpening. On the other hand, performance & J-knife enthusiasts shun them b/c Shuns are more about look & feel than blade performance, and their chef’s knives have a deeply rounded (as opposed to the mostly flat) cutting edge of a typical Japanese chef’s knife. Anyway, your friend wants a Shun, so that’s what you should get her.
-Shun Classic… Are Shuns’ oldest and most popular knives made of VG-10 steel (~ 61 HRC), with a Damascus (ink pattern) cladding, r/l specific D shaped handles
-Shun Premier…pretty much the same as the Classics with a Tsuchime (hammered) & Damascus (ink pattern) cladding
-Shun Pro…Shuns’ rendition of traditional Japanese single bevel knives meant for Japanese cuisine specific cuts.
-Shun Reserve…made of SG2 powdered steel (~64 HRC) with a Damascus (ink pattern) cladding
-Shun Ken Onion…hated it. See posting #19 http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/sh...chen-knife-set
If I’m not mistaken, Shun only use two steels; VG-10 (Classic, Premier, etc.) and the more advanced SG-2 (Elite, Kaji, Reserve, etc.). It might be easier to break down the various lines by steel, then pick whatever handle & cladding floats your boat. A pro would probably appreciate the advantages of the SG-2 steel on their primary go-to knives, and would ok with VG-10’s on their secondary knives. Hope this helps.