I had a visitor to my shop today. We talked about knives, I showed him knives that influenced my work, did some cutting to demonstrate food release and talked a bit about my process and what I aim at in my knives - performance. He then asked me "what is a high-performance knife"? I gave him a brief answer (he came with his mother and we were getting too technical about some things) so later I emailed him a more detailed explanation. I am going copy and past some of it here, maybe somebody will find it useful.
High-End and High-Performance knife are not interchangeable, though sometimes, a knife is both. My understanding of a high-performance knife is the following:
Steel - has to have small carbides size and contain alloys that will contribute to wear resistance. I find 52100 for carbon and AEB-L for stainless be some of the best performing steels.
Heat treatment - should be aimed to achieve a great edge stability and a fine grain structure (sharpness will follow) while getting a good hardness (62-63RC after tempering) and good wear resistance. Cryo, proper tempering will influence performance greatly.
Profile - generally, narrower and flatter profiles make more efficient cutters.
Grind - one with a best food separation (consistently, not just on the first cut, and on variety of things) would be desirable
Handle - needs to be comfortable to be held for hours (in pro environment) without developing fatigue
Fit and finish - edges on the spine and choil need be rounded and polished, as these come in contact with the hand and higher finish on a blade is desirable on carbon steels
When all these are combined in one knife, you basically have a racing car in a kitchen knife.