Thank you all for your insights.
Sheldon N - Thank you for trying and in particular for the description: it provides food for thought (and practice). A very helpful use of Levels, I will give that more thought in future images. The pic I posted already had some Levels / Curve adjustment there (the slightly overexposed look may come from that, will look out in the future), so I will have another crack at it and see if I can work out the details better this time.
Bobtrips - thanks for the insights on composition. The part you are talking about was being dropped on the cutting board, so without a flash it would have been hard to freeze that. I was shooting from pretty up close as well. I understand though, what you mean, but I intentionally wanted to focus on the noodles lying there with stuff going on in the background. That must be a disagreement between us about the artistic choices made for this particular image.
The input is very much appreciated.