Nikholas Flack’s Journey from Fine Dining to an Eco-Friendly Restaurant Serving Indigenous Ingredients.

Executive chef and owner of The Flackyard, Nikholas Flack, tells the story behind the name, the secrets of his bush beer and balancing family life.

It takes a bit of boldness to walk into a top class fine dining restaurant and ask for a job, but it’s gotten The Flackyard’s head chef, Nik Flack, where he is today.

After travelling across Canada, he decided to go for it…he bought the Australian Food Lover’s Guide 2008, turned to the first page of Melbourne and circled four of the 3 Chef Hat restaurants he wanted to work at. 

The first was Vue De Monde with Shannon Bennett.

Without an appointment, Nik walked in and asked to speak with the chef. The chef at the time, Mark Briggs, who came out to meet him.

After a chat, Nik handed Mark his CV with the parting words ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to part of the team. I’ll wash dishes, peel potatoes, scrub the floors…I don’t care, I really want to be a part of the team!’. 

He was offered a trial the next day!

The business journey

The Flackyard offers a uniqueness all of its own, from the story behind the name to the ingredient combinations. And the business looks very different now to how it did when it started.

Nik started the business, Flackyard Dining, as an ‘in-home’ chef degustation dining experience in people’s homes, in Mackay and surrounding areas.

Their aim was to deliver something authentic, local, boutique and special, yet with the friendly feel of home.

It worked well for and showed there was demand for the food Nik and Emily were creating. It was then that the couple made the decision to take what they felt would be the next step for them. In November 2019, they opened The Flackyard as a restaurant in regional Mackay as a destination venue. Making this move completely changed the business model and the way customers were welcomed into the business, allowing for a unique customer experience.

Origin of name

The name comes from a meaning that’s special to the founders and their family, When their son, Hunter, was born, Nik and Emily nicknamed him their little Flackseed and the name ‘Flack’ took off from there. The family then started using the name for their backyard on invitations for parties and gatherings at home.

To Nik and Emma, the name holds a special meaning represents family, fun and the comfort of home or your own backyard, which, for Nik, was in Pioneer Valley, Finch Hatton, close to where the restaurant is now.

Training and Early Career

It was by chance that Nik fell into cookery as a skill.

After realising that mainstream learning was not for him, Nik began training with the first trial of what is now known as Vocational Education and Training (VET), which changed his life. 

His first choice of subject was mechanics, but when he was too late to apply for the second round, he enrolled onto commercial cookery. From there, through the support of M-Rail,Nik started his apprenticeship at The Shamrock Hotel in 2003.

And he fell in love with the trade.


Across his journey, Nik is thankful to have worked and learned from who he describes as chef legends during his career, with his most standout person being his mentor, Steve Branson, during his apprenticeship.   

Steve prepared Nik with everything he needed to know to tackle the hospitality world.

“Understanding, yet firm and to the point, he inspired me to dig deep, to believe in my dreams and make them come true,” Nik says.

“I’ll never forget what he said to me in the early days:

“‘Come fly under my wing mate, I’ll get you your papers and the world will be your oyster’.” 

Nik feels lucky to have worked with what he describes as some incredible restaurants with remarkable people, including Vue De Monde, Onboard True North, Wildflower, Fervor. 

The inspiration behind The Flackyard came after Hunter, Em and I had been travelling around Australia for a few years before The Flackyard dream. 

After working at Wildflower, Nik was finding it hard not to be inspired by any of the kitchens he found himself in. 

He was ready to do his own thing. 

After returning back to Mackay, Emily secured a good job and Nik got the chance to set up his own restaurant and The Flackyard Dining began.

“We wanted to showcase and honour awe-inspiring Australian native ingredients,” he says.

“Word spread and I picked up a few gigs,  like The Wetlands Weekend with Matt Golinski and the Mackay Food and Wine Festival. 

Then, close friends, Michelle and Dave from One Hungry Mumma, told Nik about a lease coming up on an old church.

“We threw everything into it, sold our home in Western Australia, sold everything, friends and fam chipped in,” Nik remembers.

An eco work in progress

Nik describes his journey and his business as being a work in progress, always learning how to make it more eco-efficient and sustainable.

The restaurant uses solar power, rainwater tanks and incorporates composting waste.

There is a worm farm and microbat houses support this, while recycling and using eco-friendly products are part of the norm.

“We buy locally so that our transport miles are as low as they can be,” says Nik.

Indigenous ingredients

The Batjo Radish has been a seasonal standout with a smoky pickle on the menu for the last few years.

When it comes to picking out ingredients, Nik says there is no greater inspiration than learning from First Nations People, such as Maningrida Wild Foods, which harvests from across the country. 

Senior Traditional Owner and Gurr-Goni woman Leila Nimbadja, and her team tell Nik what’s coming up for harvest, what an ingredient is like, how it changes in texture and taste and how it can be used.

With the evolving menu, ingredients and flavours come from wild ideas and conversations with suppliers, and ongoing experimentation using waste products for fermenting, pickling and dehydrating.

The Bush Beer is made in collaboration with Nige and his crew at Goanna Brewing in Mackay. 

The base flavours are boab root from Bindam Mie in The Kimberley, wild harvested native lemongrass and native ginger. The beer is left to age and mature for 3 months, allowing the flavours to unite and become one. 

Nik and his apprentice, Jordan, have been working closely with their local rainforest finger lime grower. The level of crops can vary, but they generally only have a short shelf life. 

“We roll out those caviar citrus pearls and pick out the seeds, rapidly freeze them and then dehydrate the husks and can then use these in our food and drinks all year.

In particular, Nik loves the farmers’ markets and getting to know local growers and suppliers, who work hard to supply primo ingredients in the exact amounts and sizes Nik needs. In particular, Nik and Emily are excited about building relationships with the Yuwi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and the Koinmerburra Aboriginal Corporation and amazing plans they have in place to build nurseries for their crops.

Recruitment and family business life

Nik’s family are all very much involved in running the business and this is both a passion and a juggle between spending time together as a family, as well as running the business for the love of it.

His small team the business well and work hard, and recognises their value, as finding new recruits is one of the toughest challenges the industry faces.

“We’ve constantly been recruiting since we opened, and it’s probably the hardest part of this industry,” says Nik.

With Nik and his wife’s careers, it takes the family lives spending half the year in WA and the other half in Queensland.

Nik and Emily’s second Son, Iluka, was born the week they opened the restaurant, and Em was still working in the restaurant – purely down to the love of the business they’ve built, which means much more to them than that.

“The boys make our gift cards and work in the kitchen garden, and Hunter is keen to  help in the kitchen,” Nik says.

The family live onsite in a shed behind the heritage church that the restaurant is in, which is a home where Nik’s family can be together as much as possible.

Mostly, Nik loves being close to his roots and where he thinks of as home.

“It only feeds more energy to the whole experience before and after and my whole family live and breathe it.”