Woolever started working with Bourdain for his “Les Halles Cookbook,” published in 2004, in which the chef and budding TV host described her as “the lone professional in a monkey house. The book could never have been done without her.” She returned to Bourdain’s employ in 2009 and worked with him right up to his death. Aside from the travel guide, in which she had to rely largely on old shows and transcripts, Woolever has another book in the works, “Bourdain: The Oral Biography,” scheduled to publish this fall.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How people should use “World Travel” until they feel safe to get on an airplane again?
A: A lot of people really loved what Tony did with his writing and with television and were never going to be travelers in that way. But they were able to learn about the world through his travel and storytelling, and I think this book fits that need. Then for people who have traveled quite a bit and are feeling nostalgic for that travel, there’s something sort of pleasurable about reading Tony’s experiences. I say this in the introduction: The book is not a comprehensive guide to the world.
Q: The book is almost as much a compendium of Tony’s observations as it is a travel guide, sort of like “The Incomplete Anthony Bourdain.” That idea is reinforced by the way the book is printed. All of Tony’s words are boldfaced for easy reference.
A: When you’re watching the shows, he’s such a brilliant writer and so brilliant on his feet, and so much of that would go by so quickly as you’re watching the beautiful visuals and the cinematography. So to have the words that he carefully chose, to have them in this format, I think it is a different experience altogether.
Q: I’m curious about the conversation that you had with Tony that served as the blueprint for the book. What was the gist of what he wanted to do?
A: One of our early inspirations for how we wanted the book to feel, beyond just being things that Tony loved or things that were weird, was the “Atlas Obscura” book. That’s a really beautiful book and has maybe one or two attractions from every place in the world. So, you know, there’s plenty of stuff in the book that isn’t weird, that’s very middle of the road.
Q: How did the book evolve as you went along in the process?
A: On the day we had this conversation, he wasn’t recalling a lot about Lebanon. And, of course, anyone who followed him knows that Lebanon was hugely important to him. He and his crew were caught in a war there in 2006. He went back twice, and it was a place that he loved. Were he around, he would have said, “Listen, we