My two cents: I think it depends on what the boards are being used for.
If the cutting boards are supposed to be used for general food preparation (in the 'cutting' sense) you will probably be best off with the 'normal' species, such as maple and bamboo. Softer woods get cut up rather quickly. Inlays or other accents using tropical wood look nice, but I'd be a bit worried. Some species are toxic, and the accents might come apart after some use.
As to finishes: pretty much any decent finish, such as acrylic, is food safe once fully cured, but it is probably best to not use any finish beyond mineral oil. Sharp knives cut through finishes requiring periodic refinishing.
If someone is interested in a large board for the preparation of noodles or for general baking, it could be a bit more forgiving in the sense that you could use softer woods and indeed use acrylic as a finish. Other specialty boards are carving boards (with grooves and jus-collecting depressions) or bread-cutting boards.
I think someone who is a true cook would really appreciate a simple, solid end-grain, hard-maple board. Someone who mostly uses the microwave will probably appreciate patterned boards using different wood species.
Wooden trivets are also nice!
Just some thoughts. Hungry now...
Cheers - MM