Entrepreneur and Mad Priest Coffee Roastersfounder Michael Rice didn’t set out to host and organize events, but that’s part of what he’s doing now.

He recently launched Mad Priest Events to further the mission he started with his wholesale coffeecompany,which aims to provide area refugees with new or better jobs.

Rice launched the coffee venture after he and his wife, Cherita,taught English in India and got into the coffee business there.


“We want to hire more refugees, but we’re a small shop,” he said about the coffee business.

He’d also love to add an international food component to his shop, but that takes a bigger investment than he can make right now.

In thinking about how to bring international food and culture to Chattanooga while supporting refugees, he came up with the event arm of Mad Priest.

“If we can locate and pinpoint certain refugees who have a heart to cook, they can be the ones catering for these events,” Rice said of his thought process.

Hosting events with international themes is a way to do all the things he was looking to do. It also allows him to test the local market to see if there’s interest for an international food café in the future.

Last month,Mad Priest Events hosted An Evening in India, which featureddinner from the South Asian country and Indian contemporary folk group The Raghu Dixit Band.

It wasn’t intentionally the new business’ inaugural event, but after connecting with a friend of a friend, it fell into place.

“It gave us the opportunity to launch Mad Priest Events with a bang, and it sold out,” he said.

Going forward, Rice wants to have events at least monthly that feature a specific country or region, similar to the first dinner.

The next event-An Evening in Iraq-is slated for May 26 at The Camp House.

A local Iraqi family, who is in the process of starting a catering company, will provide the food.

And each event is meant to be a holistic experience that also immerses attendees in the culture through music and décor.

“My main goal with the events is to just give Chattanooga an opportunity to get beyond itself, which it already does,” Rice said. “It’s already an innovative, exciting city; that’s why I think it’s time for something like this.”