By Mical Kasweka

Quest Atkinson and her husband Brad Macdonald, Ryerson alumni and founders of Coco Xo. (Mical Kasweka/Ryersonian)

Quest Atkinson, a Ryerson alumna and chocolatier, wants to use her culinary talents to inspire customers.

“For years I’ve struggled with depression, and truth be told I just wanted to use this business as an outlet to love on other people,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson and her husband, Brad Macdonald, founded Coco Xo last year with the goal to encourage those the duo meet and work with, through inspirational designs and messages.

Atkinson and Macdonald met at Ryerson and both graduated from business technology management in 2008. They were just one of the vendors at the Student Learning Centre’s (SLC) recent two-day Taste of SLC food market.

As people passed by and admired Coco Xo’s artistic confections, the duo gave out scratch cards with handwritten love notes with sayings like “I believe in you.”

Coco Xo gave out scratch cards with handwritten love notes like “I believe in you.” (Mical Kasweka/Ryersonian)

“Even if for a moment they can feel loved, and maybe change their mind or their day, even if it’s just temporary and changing that person’s moment, it would be such an honor for me to do that,” Atkinson said.

Other vendors on display included Sukoon Hirani, a recent hospitality and tourism graduate, who said she decided to participate in the food market in order to showcase the importance of her Indian culture.

“My friend and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our food and our culture,” she said.

Third-year hospitality and tourism student, Blair Mignote Smith, said he not only participated in the market to display his food, but also as an expression of his creativity.

“I have a very diverse background and I’m called to serve and share the cuisine, creativity and the invaluable love and effort poured into every dish,” Smith said.

While the inspiration for some dishes comes from culture, Atkinson said her design inspiration for the confections is seasonal, while the recipe and dietary components are meant to be accessible and available to everyone.

“We have this spiced caramel bonbon that’s encased with dark chocolate and it’s dairy free,” she said. “I also need to be dairy-free and gluten-free and sometimes I can’t even eat my own stuff, so I love that we are able to make something dairy-free because we get that question quite a bit and I think it’s a common misconception that all chocolate has dairy.”

Macdonald said events and markets like the one held at the SLC are important because businesses can use their products and services as a means to connect with people.

“I think what it comes down to is just the conversations that we get to have with people at markets and the stories that selling this stuff sparks, whether it’s here at Ryerson or other markets, everyone has a story and they get to share it through this table.”

This is a joint byline. Ryersonian staff are responsible for the news website edited and produced by final-year undergraduate and graduate journalism students at Ryerson University. It features all the content from the weekly campus newspaper, The Ryersonian, and distributes news and online multimedia, including video newscasts from RyersonianTV. also provides videos, images, and other interactive material in partnership with the School of Journalism.

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